Weathering the Storm: Getting Through Joint Pain during Weather Changes
Keegan knows when a storm is coming, and often more accurately than what my iPhone weather app tells me. Changes in the weather, particularly large shift in temperature, pressure, and/or precipitation cause all the joints in his body to ache. Yep, at 29 years old Keegan sounds like a grandpa who swears he can feel the change in the weather.
Why is this a phenomenon that happens? Scientists haven't discovered why yet. There are noted examples of people being able to feel changes in the weather, but there are a number of reasons that could be happening and it's unclear why. It could be the wearing down of joints exposes nerves. Or perhaps the muscles and tendons contract as a response, causing joint pain. Whatever the reason one thing is clear: weather affects Keegan's joints. (Read more here for more about how joint pain and weather may be related.)
It's like a pain cold
When I wrote this article, it was Halloween and the weather here in Philadelphia was warm. Too warm and too humid. Halloween in Philly usually requires many layers, but not on that night. When Keegan picked me up from the train station I could see it in his face. The weather was causing him a lot of pain. He was worn down and fatigued. I asked him if he was okay. "Yeah, but the weather hasn't affected me like this in years."
We chat over dinner about what he's going through and he explained it like this. "I treat these days like I have a cold...like a pain cold. It's temporary and annoying, but I know it will pass." It's just a matter of managing the pain until the weather evens out.
Getting through the tough days
Naturally, I ask him, "What do you do to help get through these days?" He came up with a list that hopefully may benefit others as well.
- Do what you have to do to get the minimum done. Just like a cold, take it easy. Find activities that bring happiness without heavily relying on your body. Rest but also stay active by doing some light walking, yoga, or stretching.
- Ask your doctor about regular pain management medications you can take. Keegan takes round the clock Motrin and Tylenol to help with the pain. He also has a pain management specialist along with his rheumatologist to help in these cases for other medications temporarily.
- Be kind to your body. It's clearly under a lot of stress and could use some love. Take a nice bath. Make a smoothie. Anything that's unhealthy or stressful will just make things worse.
- Be kind to your mind. A lot of negative thoughts pop up for Keegan at this time. "You're not doing enough. Why aren't you getting your tasks done?" But at the end of the day, what's most important is getting through this pain cold comfortably and with as little stress as possible.
I know Keegan's not the only one out there feeling these ups and downs in the weather right now. I hope anyone else out there reading will find comfort knowing that they're not alone.
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?