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Is summer the best season for Fibromyalgia sufferers?

Participants exit the water after the swim leg during the Challenge Triathlon Rimini on May 11, 2014 in Rimini, Italy
Participants exit the water after the swim leg during the Challenge Triathlon Rimini on May 11, 2014 in Rimini, Italy
Photo by Charlie Crowhurst

Most fibromyalgia sufferers indicate spring and summer are the best times of the year in dealing with their symptoms or flare ups. For those suffering with fibromyalgia, warm weather brings some comfort to their pain.

How does weather affect fibromyalgia symptoms? Temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, humidity and wind all play an important factor. Only a few studies have been conducted on this topic, and most indicate that variations in barometric pressure (which occur when a storm front moves in) may worsen the symptoms. Humidity and extreme temperature changes can also cause symptoms to arise.

With many outdoor activities available during the summer months, sufferers should take an active role in their physical progress. Walking, biking and swimming are great activities to do when summertime rolls around. If the summer heat makes it difficult, try opting for a swim.

“Exercise improves a person’s overall sense of well-being and reduces pain and tenderness over time,” says Lesley M. Arnold, M.D. a psychiatrist and fibromyalgia expert at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine in Ohio.

For outdoor swimming, warm water pools are better for the muscles than a dip in the colder waters. Muscles tense up when the water temperatures are too low. An ideal water temperature is anywhere above 84 degrees. Gentle movements in the water strengthen the muscles. While swimming uses all the major muscle groups, it has cardiovascular benefits and strength building benefits as well. It is one of the ideal exercise regimens for those suffering with chronic pain. The buoyancy of the water makes exercising easier and warm water soothes the aching muscles and joints. When swimming outdoors, be cautious as the heat and the sun can quickly dehydrate. Don’t push beyond and try not to overdo it. Take extra cautions, drink plenty of water, and be sure to keep those electrolytes in check.

While summer brings warmer temperatures, it also brings the dreaded humidity. Higher humidity can make symptoms, such as migraines worse, and interfere with sleep. Air conditioned homes and offices can also cause unwanted aches and pains. So what can a sufferer do? When indoors, wear layers. When it’s cool, extra layers can alleviate the chills caused by those unwanted air conditioning drafts.

Fibro flares can be a vicious cycle. Medical professionals suggest exercise for those with FMS yet the person suffering in pain can barely move their muscles. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting to exercise through the pain to the point of hurting all over again the next day.

Maintaining warm water therapy and light stretching can ease pain. It doesn’t happen overnight. Muscle stiffness will occur but over time, muscles become stronger and pain slowly eases up.

For people with fibromyalgia, low-impact aerobics is the way to go. “We really like an aerobic water class and people tend to go back,” Arnold says. A study in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that water aerobics improve health-related quality of life in women with fibromyalgia.

For those on medications, they should continue. For those in a flare, a gentle exercise regimen should start slowly. It’s best to build up slowly, gradually increasing the length and intensity of the activity. While each person is different, the fibromyalgia patient has to find the best exercise activity for them. Sticking to a schedule of exercise, sleep and good nutrition can alleviate some of the symptoms for fibromyalgia sufferers.

Any time fibromyalgia patients are doing more activity than usual, it’s essential to get a full night’s sleep. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have other conditions. It is important to seek medical counseling for the best treatment plan per individual.

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