By Melissa Swanson
February hit me like a brick wall.
The fatigue, pain, and depression increased every day. The last few days before going on vacation, I did absolutely nothing but sleep.
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Well, actually it was Mesa, Arizona, but it felt like what I imagine Heaven to be. I had five days of no pain. I had forgotten what it felt like to have no pain. I went five days without being covered in ice packs, a heating pad, my Oska Pulse or extra pain medicine.
5 days with no pain.
It had been 11 years since the last time I can remember not having daily pain.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes many symptoms; most common are widespread pain and fatigue, and certain climates can increase pain, headaches, depression and fatigue. While climate affects each of us differently, cold and damp (rain, snow or sleet) are the worst weather conditions for me.
Since many fibromites and chronic pain patients report that cold weather makes their symptoms worse, I am frequently asked if weather affects the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Certainly, a climate where the temperature remains warmer could be better for the condition. I know it is for me!
Extreme weather conditions also affect our symptoms. Most chronic pain patients report that weather plays a very important role in how they feel, reporting that extreme cold weather and extreme hot weather makes their symptoms worse.
For me, the perfect weather condition is to avoid cold, damp climates as well as sticky, humid weather. Not only can weather conditions trigger my symptoms, I find that changes in the barometric pressure also worsen them. Like many others, I can predict when the weather is going to change. I can almost guarantee a prediction of rain or snow.
In the perfect world, we would live in the climate that is best for us. But how many people can actually uproot their families and move because of one person’s health? Our daughter is a junior in high school and planning to attend college in our home state. My parents, sister and brother-in-law live five hours away. We have jobs, lifelong friends and adopted family members.
However, when looking for the best climate, there are certain weather elements to look for and others to avoid. Someone with fibromyalgia may want to avoid areas like Alaska or the Midwest where there is a lot of snow during a cold winter. Other states on the East and West coasts, including Florida, receive rain almost every day; the South is known for high humidity which can increase aches, pains and headaches.
A temperate, dry climate with consistently warmer temperatures is likely the best for many of us with fibromyalgia. In my mind, the Southwestern United States (Arizona, New Mexico) fits the ideal weather pattern – it’s not often cold and the weather doesn’t change often enough to trigger the pain and other symptoms.
I left Mesa's dry 86-degree temperature feeling emotionally and physically restored and returned to the bitter cold 6 degrees in Minneapolis, Minnesota's. The pain returned the next day, but those five days in the warm sunshine were just what the doctor ordered for me emotionally.
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll: How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 16,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFMCPA "Advocate Voice." She's a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association and a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network.
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