May 25, 2018
By Dr. Michael J. Cooney
Chronic pain conditions can disrupt daily routines and activities, especially in the summer. Hot weather can exacerbate pain symptoms, while changes to the household routine such as school breaks for the kids or family vacations can make wellness routines harder to maintain.
Regardless of where you live, everyone looks forward to the summer months—the daily schedule is less hectic leaving more time to just enjoy yourself.
Enjoying the summer months and hopefully making some new memories along the way requires planning for chronic pain sufferers.
I start telling my patients in April that they should be thinking of warmer months ahead and plan accordingly.
Self-care extends through all the seasons. Planning ahead for health-challenging roadblocks minimizes reliance on others, feeds your independence and keep you socially engaged.
Don’t let pain rule your summer by preparing for challenges—and enjoying the luxuries that only these few months offer:
- Seek out your happy place – the water
Depending on your pain condition, water can be a wonderful respite from pain and you can find a pool or lake without looking too hard. Make a point of accepting those pool party invitations and bring a cool drink into the water with you. Don’t swim? Many pools are only four to five feet deep, so no worries. While you are in the surf or lake or pool, do some light stretching (so one can see you under the water). Closer to home, a misting fan can be very relaxing and cold packs can be lifesavers during summer pain flares.
- Avoid extreme heat
Unfortunately, you may be living every day with burning nerve pain. The last thing you want to expose yourself to is sunburn or prolong heat exposure. Changes in temperature and barometric pressure can also trigger joint pain. Fortunately, many people who battle pain don’t also prefer to stay out of the heat, so it should not be hard to find some company. Plan activities in the early morning or after the sun begins to set and put a hand-held fan in your bag whenever you venture out. Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes. Grab a light hat to shield your face, also.
- Prioritize proper seating
Summer activities always seem to include plenty of uncomfortable seating– tiny café chairs, bleachers at a ball game, outdoor concerts where you sit on the hard ground.
Plan ahead—store a folding or travel chair that fits in the truck of your car. Add a couple of cushions to sit on or bolster your lower back.
- Boost your immune system and eat fresh summer fare
Fruits and vegetables are not going to be better than they are right now. Enjoy them and boost your vitamin and mineral bank as well. Increase the quality of your food. You will feel so much better for it. My favorite summer snack is the big red cherries you only see for a few weeks in the market. I eat far too many every year. The good news is that the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that cherries contain pain-fighting and inflammation-reducing compounds that can help lessen pain, particularly arthritis.
- Monitor the air quality
During the summer, it is especially important to pay attention to the air quality ratings before heading outdoors. Studies have shown urban air pollution increases inflammation, particularly for people with fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, and MS. Before heading outside, check the Air Quality Index (AQI) at your outdoor destination.
- Don’t put your healthcare on vacation
Don’t let summer vacations or road trips get in the way of your treatment plan. Check in with your doctor before you go. Let us know what your plans are and we’ll help navigate your adventure as painlessly as possible.
Be as self-sufficient as you can by planning ahead this summer. This will lessen stress and increase your sense of independence.