Home / Advice / Coping with chronic pain in the summer. Dr Sue’s top tips

Coping with chronic pain in the summer. Dr Sue’s top tips

Most of us feel better in the summer, warmth often seems to ease chronic pain and the sunshine lightens us all up, doesn’t it? A better mood makes it easier to cope with chronic pain in many circumstances, so get out and enjoy it. 

You will enjoy the sun even more if you watch out for some pitfalls which can come when you get out and about in the nicer weather. 

Heat and joint swelling

Watch out for heat and especially humidity if you suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis as changes in temperature can cause swelling in your joints, which of course can increase your pain. Many of you may already notice that changes in barometric pressure can lead to a spike in pain. If you suspect this may be true of you, it can be worth keeping an eye on the barometer and noticing how you feel when the needle swings one way or other. If you know that certain barometric changes make you feel worse, then as far as you can, plan an easy time, with lots of relaxation built-in, on your ‘bad barometer’ days.

Drink water to control pain

Dehydration can be an issue, so if you are out and about make sure you are taking plenty of fluids, plain water is the best by far. Avoid caffeinated drinks (these include lots of soft drinks as well as coffee) and alcohol as these can actually dehydrate you. Drink often, and before you actually feel thirsty. Remember by the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated. 

Gentle exercise to ease pain: listen to your body’s signals

Stick to the right exercise levels for you. It can be tempting when everyone is out at the beach or setting off on a long country walk to over-stretch yourself and then end up paying the next day. Listen to your body, you will know the signs when it tells you that you are doing too much. 

Try to plan. Talk to your friends and relatives before you go out for that treat in the sun. You will be able to do some things and really enjoy them, just be careful not to do too much.

Air-conditioning and chronic pain

Air conditioning can be your friend. If it gets very hot, try and see if you do better in an air-conditioned room. Relax for a little while and allow yourself to cool down. This will also take the stress out of the day, you know you have a retreat should you need it.

Cool sleep helps pain

Make sure your bedroom is cool and your bed linen is not too heavy and is made of natural materials to cope best with warmer nights. Overheating is a frequent cause of poor sleep, and poor sleep is a frequent cause of increased pain. If you can sleep in an air-conditioned room even better.

Pub lunch to put that chronic pain in the background: just follow this rule

Summer foods can often vary from your usual diet. You may be out more, eating picnics or indulging in a lovely pub lunch. All this can be a fantastic boost to you and help ease your chronic pain, concentrating on things other than your pain and generally enjoying yourself is fantastic medicine. Just be a little bit careful, however, some foods can trigger pain episodes and if you are trying new things you could be at risk. If possible, try out that great sounding exotic dish or that new cheese at home first. You can ‘test run’ to see if it is going to be okay for you.

Pain management in the great outdoors

Use outside to its fullest. I hope you know the benefits of relaxation techniques, if not you can get a great start in developing this wonderful way to control your pain by downloading my 3 step targeted relaxation technique here. If it is not too hot then try some mindfulness or meditation techniques outside in nature. Being outside has a relaxing effect on all your senses and can mean a richer and more profound relaxation experience for you.

Keep your pain management routine in the summer

Keep to your routine. I know the vast majority of the clients who come to my pain management clinics in Milton Keynes and Bedford improve in leaps and bounds once they have established a routine that works for them. 

If you come to see me I will spend a lot of time working out with you what targeted activities, times of day, sleep routine and eating patterns are best for you. Whether you have found your optimum routine by working with me or another pain therapist, or by your own efforts be careful to stick to it in the better weather. It can be very easy just to rush out without remembering to do your stretching exercises, or eat your slow-energy-release breakfast, or take five minutes to do some relaxing breathing. Whatever it is that works for you, if you miss it out you are likely to pay later in the day, so it’s worth sticking to that routine.

Pain management at parties, weddings and picnics

One of the wonderful things about summer is how many great social occasions there are for you to enjoy with your friends and family. Planning ahead a bit can make them even more enjoyable and stress-free. 

If, for example you are going on a picnic, make sure that you are going to be able to sit in a comfortable position. If you are at a wedding, you might want to make sure you have some quiet calm space where you can go to practise your pain-relieving techniques if everything gets a bit too hectic. If you are at a party, enjoy a few drinks but don’t go over the top. Alcohol will dehydrate you, and that can exacerbate the pain. It also acts as an analgesic, so you may feel okay bopping around the dancefloor with a bottle of wine in your system, but your joints are going to let you know you have been piling on too much pressure tomorrow.

Cool mornings, gentle evenings

In the height of the summer, the middle of the day may feel too much for you. instead choose a time when the sun is not so strong and enjoy its gentle warmth. Guaranteed to make you feel better!