Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain
There has always been a relationship between changes in weather and body aches and pains since the dawn of time (or at least since we became aware of the fascia system and moved away from the equator). The earliest recording dates back to the classical Roman age.
Hippocrates was the first to write, in 400 B.C., that many illnesses seemed to be related to changes in season. The majority of people who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorders, and even those who have suffered structural injuries, like hip replacements, knee replacements, even witt post deployment and shrapnel recovery; all report findings address the feeling of severe or less commonly moderate pain when a weather front is approaching. These symptoms can also occur when the humidity level and or precipitation levels change. Much can be said about the impact of weather on our system as a whole.
Stiff neck, tight shoulders, and pain in the hip, low back and/or knees: You might be thinking it’s your joints, but it’s actually most often connective tissue. Fascia is a webbed, interconnected matrix, that acts like a sleeve that holds muscles, tendons and joints and ideally your bones and skeletal frame. It connects to our adipose tissue via our superfiscial fascia lines, holding the shape of our body and interacting with our nervous system. As well, as our deep fascia, the thick white fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone and then our visceral fascia, much like a spider web that encases our organs and co-mingles with our structure.
Jill Miller, a renowned Yogi and functional teacher, once said;
“Fascia is your body’s soft-tissue scaffolding. It provides the matrix that your muscle cells can grow upon and it also envelopes, penetrates and surrounds all of your joints.”
According to the American Journal of Medical Sciences in 1887, the very first publication of documented changes in pain perception associated the weather with this change in body sensation and pain. This case report described a person with phantom limb pain who concluded that “approaching storms, dropping barometric pressure and rain were associated with increased pain complaints.
Many of my clients who have had hip and knee replacements, also exhibit changes in structure, like tightness and stiffness in the coming of Fall and Winter, as well as those who are more susceptible to aches and pains, like those who a higher percentage of pain receptors and or chronic pain conditions.
The historical Lineage:
The term “rheumatism” was one of the first “terms” placed on this kind of condition and it is still used in conventional speech and historical contexts, but is no longer used in medical or technical literature. The term “Rheumatic Diseases” is used to refer to connective tissue disorders, but the scope is so very broad and we are constantly learning more and more about the connections of our fascia, nervous system and other systems. Although these disorders probably have little in common in terms of their epidemiology, they do share two primary and foundational characteristics, which cannot be overlooked.
1. Can cause chronic (though often intermittent) pain, and they are difficult to treat because we still do not have a prescribed standardized direction, or assessment for proper treatment in our healthcare system.
2. Collectively, very common – 1 in 4 Canadians will suffer chronic pain at some time in their lives; which is why there are many great organizations; Pain BC is one at the top of my health and wellness food chain; which focuses on programs, services and resources for people in pain, but also works with health practitioners and our heathcare system to educate GP’s and professionals who work with chronic pain patients one on one.
There has long been said to be a link between “connective tissue” pain and the weather. There appears to be no firm evidence in favour or against, apart from the ramblings of scientists, as shown above in the 1800s. Yet in 1995 a questionnaire given to 557 people by A. Naser and others at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pain Management Center showcased barometric changes and pain. It concluded that “changes in barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain. Low pressure is generally associated with cold, wet weather and an increase in pain, because of the fact that they restrict movement. Studies have shown that changes in barometric pressure and temperature may increase stiffness in the joints and potentially trigger subtle movements that heighten a nociceptive response. Cold also slows down fine motor control and motor skill. This kind of alteration to our structure may be particularly problematic in inflammatory joints whose receptive and sensitized nociceptors are affected by movement overall.
Clear, dry conditions signal high pressure and a decrease in pain. We all know that when we are warm, we move better, and we feel better overall. Here are a couple great resources for people who not only have chronic pain, but also for those who are more sensitive to the weather and aches and pain.
Many of the clients I work with suffer from mild to acute chronic pain, yet many of them can attest to the fact, that in warmer weather, they feel better. As a Yoga Teacher and Movement Coach I understand that when a client feel pain, they immediately want to stop moving, stop all activity and this, in itself, can be isolating. One of the key foundations I focus on, is to keep moving, keep staying active. In many of my posts I discuss the difference between “rest” and “relaxation,” the body requires both, but it heals best, not in “rest,” but in a natural state of relaxation. I have found two forms of gentle relaxation and movement; to be successful in many of my clients, including myself are what i like to classify as an internal and external relaxation. Now, both stimulate internal healing and both focus on connection with our external… but when I say “internal” and “external,” I am referring more to the benefits of on the systems, and it is a great way to educate clients on the physiology of changing pain and how everything in our body is connected.
They are the following:
Internal Relaxation: Infrared Sauna & Eucalyptus Steam:
Infrared rays are one of the sun’s rays. Infrared rays are the healthiest, penetrate into your skin deeply and they dissolve harmful substances accumulated in your body. The Infrared Rays vitalize your cells and metabolism through the stimulation of sweat glands, as well as vibration. When infrared waves are applied to water molecules (comprising 70% of our body) these molecules begin to vibrate and this vibration reduces the ion bonds and the eventual breakdown of the water molecules causes encapsulated gases and other toxic materials to be released. One of my favorite spots to go is Spruce Body Labs on Richards, it’s like a weekly spa visit with all the perks of self compassion (notice how I did not say self indulgent)!
Eucalyptus steam works much the same as the detoxification process,but it is a wet vs a dry sauna, and does not offer you the benefit of the infrared rays. However, what it does offer you is the healing benefits of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus steam inhalation is recommended by many alternative practitioners for relieving nasal congestion and sinus congestion, usually from colds and flu, as well as healing tissue. .Toxic substances build up in the soft tissues of the body over time. Without a proper flushing of these toxins your muscles and connective tissue can become sore, create adhesion’s and stiffness and bind together; which reduces movement and increases tight, toned tissue. The more you perspire – or sweat – the more toxins release from your body. I use a eucalyptus steam once a month to release any nasal and respiratory congestion. Beverly’s spa on fourth avenue in kits, is an amazing spot and it’s kiddy corner to YYoga, combining a class and a steam after – brilliant.
Both stimulate your internal organs and tissue to “sweat it out,” release toxins; which reduces stress, improves metabolism, accelerates healing, eases muscle soreness and tension, enhances heart function and improves connective elasticity.
External Relaxation: Warm Yin, Yin & Restorative Yoga:
Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures which are mainly performed on the floor, where the body and mind can be still The majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. This style of yoga is very beneficial for clients who have pain, because it allows them to ease into the form and function of the pose. In my YogaFORM sessions with clients, I combine a Yin style practice with Qi Gong and elements of gentle movement sophistication flow sequences to gently open tissue and open the awareness of systemic integration. In the Fall and Winter, this can be very therapeutic for those who are affected by the colder months.
Pain BC – Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:
- Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
- Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs
Ted Talk – “Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain”
” We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it.
At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Elliot Krane works on the problem of treating pain in children”.
Pain BC: http://www.painbc.ca/
Spruce Body Labs http://www.sprucebodylab.com/
Beverly’s on 4th: .http://spaon4th.com/