When you are prone to chronic pain, you can be prone to cold. Personally I have cold feet whenever my chronic pain of my lower back presents itself.
But with the climate-change in The Netherlands summers have become dry, warm and sweaty. To my surprise this heat is a trigger for my chronic pain.
Even though my back muscles love the heat, as soon as temperature rises over 25 degrees Celsius, my belly (IBS) tends to swell to enormous proportions. I am overheating!
Somehow the high temperatures create digestive problems or make my intestinal bacteria hyperactive. However it takes place, my huge belly is causing me a lot of pain and pulls on my lower back muscles, causing the latter to contract and cramp up……ending up in lower back pain.
A friend of mine suffers from MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and he also has problems with the severe summer heat. We call this heat stress.
Signs of heat distress:
- Rash on the skin: red little bumps that itch.
- Heat cramps: due to sweating you lose moisture, salt and electrolytes that can cause cramping in your muscles like in your legs, arms and stomach.
- Heat exhaustion: when you have (heavy) physical labour like sports, construction work etc. your body needs to work hard to keep the blood flowing around (muscular pumping). When you suddenly stop this labour, your muscles stop contracting and the blood kind of ‘falls down’ by gravity or is not pushed up anymore by the muscle contraction. This causes a blood-shortage in your brain, creating dizziness, nausea and fainting.
- Heatstroke: when you do not notice the previous signs of heat stress your body can overheat, becoming too hot with a temperature over 41 degrees celsius. And then your nervous system tends to shut down. This is heatstroke and it can be fatal.
So what can you do if the high summer temperatures are creating more chronic pain, tiredness and other complaints that are related to heat?
There are different possible answers to this question:
- Avoid the heat by taking a Holliday in a cool country, like high up in the mountains or Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska.
- Stay inside an air-conditioned room.
- Make sure you have a pool to cool of in the water when the sunny temperatures become over your heat-limit.
- Buy a cooling vest or other types of clothing that keeps your body cool.
What is a cooling vest? For starters: it is COOL!
A cooling vest is a piece of clothing filled with little packets hydrogel. This is a chemical substance that swells up when you put it in water. You place your jacket in water for about 20 minutes, hang it out to dry for about 30 minutes and then you can wear it. As long as the hydrogel packets contain water, your body will reduce the heat by evaporation of the water in the hydrogel. This keeps your body temperature cool. It makes it possible for people to go outside in the sun and heat without having a problem with the temperature.
This type of clothing has been created for space-astronauts. Then it was used by Olympic sporters who decreased their body-temperature by a few degrees what increased their performance-levels. Nowadays it is available for a wider public.
There are different type of clothing. Protective clothing for people that do hard physical labour like construction-workers or people that ride motorcycles. There is a type of clothing for leasure and there are special medical types of clothes.
People with MS like my friend tend to have more pain when temperatures rise. Special coolingvests with a lot of hydrogel packets on the front and back of the torso helps to keep them cool. If your chronic pain is triggered by heath, this might be a solutions for you too. You need to find the best type of clothing that fits your needs. Like if you suffer from migraine: a cooling-cap or hat may be a better option than a coolingvest.
For me personally: if I wear the coolingvest in time, before my belly swells up due to the heat, I can keep my belly in the right condition. If I am too late and my belly has inflated itself already, the vest is not helping anymore to reduce the pain. I really need to wear it in advance.
My friend with MS has benefit from the coolingvest as soon as he wears it. He doesn’t need to wear it in advance.
This is not a budget-solution. This type of clothing can be expensive to purchase. However if it can improve your living-conditions in the summer and be the difference between sitting home alone or visit summer-parties with friends, it is certainly worth the price. And your buy it once and it lasts a long time. But you might want to do research to the type of clothing that will fit you and your lifestyle.
A really good Dutch website is: koelvest.nl