Rheumatism and Spring

Rheumatism and Spring

Spring is a time many of us appreciate, but those with rheumatism often appreciate it extra. This means that many with rheumatic diagnoses react to unstable weather, air pressure changes and temperature fluctuations.

That rheumatologists react to weather changes is well documented in research (1). Studies have shown that different types of rheumatism are more affected by certain types of weather changes - although we make it clear that this can also vary individually.

 

- The weather factors you react to can vary

For example, it has been seen that changes in air pressure and temperature changes particularly affected those with rheumatoid arthritis. Temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure were particularly linked to worsening for those with arthritis. Patients with fibromyalgia reacted particularly to barometric change - such as when the weather goes from low pressure to high pressure (or vice versa). Other factors you can react to are humidity and the stability of the weather over time.

 

Good and fast tips: Started with longer walks? At the very bottom of the article you can watch a video with exercise exercises for pain in the legs. We also provide tips on self-measures (such as calf compression socks og plantar fasciitis compression socks). The links open in a new window.

 

- At our interdisciplinary departments at Vondtklinikkene in Oslo (Lambert seats) and Viken (Eidsvoll Sound og Raw wood) our clinicians have a uniquely high professional competence in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation training of chronic pain. Click on the links or here to read more about our departments.

 

In This Article You Will Learn More About:

  • What is Weather Sensitivity?

  • Therefore, Spring is a great time for Rheumatists

  • How Weather Sensitivity Can Trigger Bad Periods

  • Self-measures and Good advice against weather changes

  • Exercises and Training against Leg Cramps (includes VIDEO)

 

What is Weather Sensitivity?

In the 'old days' one often remembers the expression 'I feel it in the gout'. In recent times, it has been proven beyond any doubt that weather factors can actually affect pain and symptoms among rheumatologists (2). These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure (air pressure)
  • Air pressure changes
  • Rainfall
  • Frequent weather changes
  • Humidity

 

As mentioned, people with rheumatic diagnoses may react differently to different weather factors. Variations occur among those with the same diagnoses. Some people may experience increased muscle pain and joint stiffness when the rainfall increases and the humidity rises. Others may feel it in the form of an increased incidence of headaches and other rheumatic symptoms.

 

Therefore, Spring is a great time for Rheumatists

Spring is often a more stable season than, for example, autumn and winter. With this, we also think that more people with rheumatism react to too cold weather and an increased incidence of precipitation (both in the form of rain and snow). Thus, this is a season that is better suited for rheumatologists. There are several positive factors that make this season better:

  • Less humidity
  • More comfortable temperature
  • More daylight and sunshine
  • Easier to be active
  • Reduced incidence of 'thunderstorms'

Among other things, we can look at weather data that average humidity in Oslo goes from 85% and 83% in January and February, respectively - to 68% and 62% in March and April (3). Several rheumatologists also report increased quality of life and reduction in symptoms when the weather temperature stabilizes at an average higher level. That it also gets brighter on the days and that you have more access to sunshine are also two very positive factors.

 

How Weather Sensitivity Can Trigger Rheumatic Deterioration

Although research is significantly better in this field than it was, there is still much we do not know. We know that there are good research studies that have documented a link between weather and seasons with the influence of rheumatic symptoms. But we are not quite sure why. However, there are several theories - including the following:

  1. Changes in barometric air pressure, for example at low pressure, can cause tendons, muscles, joints and connective tissue to contract. This thus causes pain in tissues that is affected by rheumatism.
  2. Low temperatures can increase the thickness of synovial synovial fluid that causes the joints to stiffen.
  3. You are generally less active when the weather is bad and cold. Less movement in everyday life can aggravate symptoms and pain.
  4. Big weather changes and good thunderstorms often put a damper on our mood. We know again that if you feel down, this can intensify known pain and symptoms.

A large study with 2658 participants published in the research journal Nature supported these findings (4). Here, participants were asked to map pain, symptoms, morning stiffness, sleep quality, fatigue, mood and activity level.

 

The results showed significant, though moderate, correlation between reported pain and factors such as humidity, barometric pressure and wind. You also saw how this again went beyond both mood and physical activity among the participants.

 

Self-measures and Good advice against weather changes

Here we come up with some suggestions for our own measures against weather changes. Many of you are probably familiar with much of this, but we still hope that more of you can benefit from some of the advice.

 

Advice against weather changes

Aisles with spells

  1. Dress for the weather - and always bring extra layers. Many people with rheumatism experience cold sores and temperature changes during the day. It is therefore especially important to bring extra clothes to take this into account. Bring a scarf, a hat, gloves and good shoes when you go on a trip - even if the weather looks stable.
  2. Wear compression socks and compression gloves. These are compression garments that are specially made to maintain circulation in the hands and feet, which in turn can help you maintain the temperature. They can be used well under most types of gloves and mittens.
  3. Maintain the activity level. In colder seasons such as autumn and winter, we have a tired tendency to be less active. But we know that physical activity is very important to keep the symptoms in check. Walking, strength training and stretching exercises can help you with pain and stiffness.
  4. Low level of vitamin D? Many of us have low levels of vitamin D during and after dark. Talk to your GP if you suspect this may apply to you as well.
  5. Use heat therapy: Reusable heat pack and / or hot baths can help you relieve muscle tension and stiff joints.

 

Tip 1: Compression clothing for Legs, Feet and Hands

The use of compression clothing is a simple self-measure that is easy to get good routines for in relation to use. All the links to the aids below open in a new reader window.

compression socks overview 400x400Soft sooth compression gloves - Photo Medipaq

 

  1. Leg compression socks (effective against leg cramps)
  2. Plantar Fascitt Compression Socks (good for foot pain and plantar fasciitis)
  3. Compression gloves

Via the links above you can read more about the self-measures - and see purchasing opportunities.

 

Tip 2: Reusable Heat Pack

Unfortunately, muscle tension and joint stiffness are two things that are linked to rheumatism. We therefore recommend that all rheumatologists have a multipack available. You simply heat it up - and then you lay it against the area that is particularly tense and stiff. Easy to use.

 

Treatment of Chronic Muscle and Joint Pain

It is not particularly surprising that many people with chronic pain seek out physical therapy. Several report good and soothing effects of treatment techniques such as muscle knot treatment, intramuscular acupuncture and joint mobilization.

 

Do you want a Consultation at the Pain Clinics?

We are happy to help you with assessment and treatment at one of our affiliated clinics. Here you can see an overview of where we are located.

 

Exercises and Training for you who want to go more

Maybe you have a desire to go more or longer walks this spring? Here we show a 13 minute long training program that was originally made for those with hip osteoarthritis. Remember that if you are unable to get up and down the floor, that part of the program may be left standing. We recommend that you try to follow and train with us on the video - but it works just fine if you can not do it at the same pace or speed. Try to make it a habit to put on this exercise program on your TV or PC - preferably three times a week. Feel free to contact us in the comments section below this article or on our Youtube channel if you have questions that you feel we can help you with.

 

VIDEO: 13 Minute Exercise Program for Hips and Back

Become part of the family! Feel free to subscribe for free on our Youtube channel (click here).

 

Sources and References:

1. Guedj et al, 1990. Effect of weather conditions on rheumatic patients. Ann Rheum Dis. 1990 Mar; 49 (3): 158-9.

2. Hayashi et al, 2021. Weather sensitivity associated with quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. BMC Rheumatol. 2021 May 10; 5 (1): 14.

Climate and average weather in Oslo. Based on weather forecasts collected in the period 3–2005.

4. Dixon et al, 2019. How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app. Npj Digit. With. 2, 105 (2019).

Fibromyalgia and Leg Cramps

Pain in the leg

Fibromyalgia and Leg Cramps

Are you suffering from leg cramps? Research has shown that those with fibromyalgia have a higher incidence of leg cramps. In this article, we take a closer look at the connection between fibromyalgia and leg cramps.

Research links this to a type of fibromyalgia pain called hyperalgesia (1). We also know from earlier that the interpretation of pain is stronger in those affected by this chronic pain condition. A systematic review study indicated that it may be due to overactivity of the nervous system in this patient group (2).

 

Good and fast tips: At the very bottom of the article, you can watch a video with exercise exercises for leg pain. We also provide tips on self-measures (such as calf compression socks og plantar fasciitis compression socks) and super magnesium. The links open in a new window.

 

- At our interdisciplinary departments at Vondtklinikkene in Oslo (Lambert seats) and Viken (Eidsvoll Sound og Raw wood), our clinicians have a uniquely high professional competence in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation training of foot, leg and ankle ailments. Click on the links or here to read more about our departments.

 

In This Article You Will Learn More About:

  • What are Leg Cramps?

  • Hyperalgesia and Fibromyalgia

  • The link between Fibromyalgia and Leg cramps

  • Self-measures against leg cramps

  • Exercises and Training against Leg Cramps (includes VIDEO)

 

What are Leg Cramps?

lay and leg heat

Leg cramps can occur during the day and at night. The most common is that it occurs at night after going to bed. Muscle cramps in the calf lead to a persistent, involuntary and painful contraction of the calf muscles. The cramp can affect the entire muscle group or only parts of the calf muscles. The episodes last from seconds to several minutes. When touching the muscle involved, you will be able to feel that it is both pressure sore and very tense.

 

Such seizures can have several different causes. Dehydration, lack of electrolytes (including magnesium), overactive calf muscles and hyperactive nerves (as in fibromyalgia) and nerve pinching in the back are all possible causes. Having a routine of stretching the calf muscles before going to bed can help reduce the incidence. Other measures such as compression socks can also be a useful measure to increase blood circulation in the area - and thus help prevent seizures (the link opens in a new window).

 

Hyperalgesia and Fibromyalgia

In the introduction of the article, we agreed that studies have revealed overactivity in the nervous system in those affected by fibromyalgia (1, 2). More specifically, this means that the peripheral nervous system sends out too many and too strong signals - which in turn leads to a higher resting potential (the proportion of activity in the nerves) and thus with contractions that end in convulsions. Due to the fact that it has also been seen that the center for pain interpretation in the brain does not have the same «pain filters», in those with fibromyalgia, the intensity of pain is also intensified.

 

- Leg cramps Due to error signals?

It is also believed that the overactive nervous system in those with fibromyalgia can lead to error signals in the muscles, which in turn can lead to involuntary contraction and cramping.

 

The connection between Leg cramps and Fibromyalgia

  • Overactive Nervous System

  • Slower Healing

  • Increased Inflammatory Reactions in Soft Tissue

Those with fibromyalgia thus have an increase in muscle activity, as well as a 'hyperactive' peripheral nervous system. This leads to muscle spasms and muscle cramps. If we take a closer look at other conditions associated with fibromyalgia - such as irritable bowel syndrome - then we see that this is also a form of muscle spasm, but that in this case it is about smooth muscles. This is a type of muscle that differs from skeletal muscle, as we primarily find this in the intestinal organs of the body (such as the intestines). An overactivity in this type of muscle fiber will, like muscle in the legs, lead to involuntary contractions and irritation.

 

Self-measures against leg cramps

One with fibromyalgia needs increased blood circulation to maintain normal muscle function in the legs. This is partly because the high muscle activity places higher demands on access to electrolytes in the bloodstream - such as magnesium (read more about super-magnesium here ) and calcium. Several therefore report a reduction in leg cramps with a combination of calf compression socks and magnesium. Magnesium is found in spray form (which is applied directly to the calf muscles) or in tablet form (also in combination with calcium).

 

Magnesium can help your tense muscles calm down. The use of compression socks helps to keep the circulation up - and thus increases the repair pace in sore and tight muscles.

 

Simple self-measures you can do yourself to increase blood circulation are:

compression socks overview 400x400

  • Daily exercises (see video below)

 

Treatment of Leg Cramps

There are several effective treatment measures for leg cramps. Among other things, muscle work and massage can have a relaxing effect - and can help to loosen up tense muscles. For more long-term and complicated problems, so can Shockwave Therapy be the right solution. This is a very modern form of treatment with a well-documented effect against leg cramps. The treatment is often combined with joint mobilization of the hips and back if a malfunction is detected in these as well - and one may suspect that there may be nerve irritation in the back which contributes to problems in the legs and feet.

 

Are you bothered by leg cramps?

We are happy to help you with assessment and treatment at one of our affiliated clinics.

 

Exercises and Training against Leg Cramps

Exercises that help strengthen the legs, ankles and feet can contribute to improved blood circulation in the lower legs. It can also help you gain more elastic and adaptable muscles. Custom home exercises can be prescribed by your physiotherapist, chiropractor or other relevant health specialists.

 

In the video below you can see an exercise program that we recommend for leg cramps. We know that the program may be called something else, but the fact that it helps prevent pain in the ankle is also seen as a bonus. Feel free to contact us in the comments section below this article or on our Youtube channel if you have questions that you feel we can help you with.

 

VIDEO: 5 Exercises against Pain in the Footsteps

Become part of the family! Feel free to subscribe for free on our Youtube channel (click here).

 

Sources and References:

1. Sluka et al, 2016. Neurobiology of fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain. Neuroscience Volume 338, 3 December 2016, Pages 114-129.

2. Bordoni et al, 2020. Muscle Cramps. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.