If an old injury nags you during a rainstorm or when the temperature drops, you could be experiencing residual nerve damage sensations from weather changes. Tennis star Monica Seles told Sports Illustrated that years after she was stabbed during a match in 1995 she continues to feel twinges in the incision during weather fluctuations. Why does weather impact nerve injury years after the injury has healed? Although mostly anecdotal, scientists are examining how weather influences nerve damage.
Harvard professor Dr. Robert Jamison conducted a 1995 study at Brigham and Women's Hospital's Pain Management Center regarding the effects of nerve damage and the weather. Dr. Jamison noticed that the pain management center waiting rooms were fuller on days when the weather was damp and humid versus days when weather was warm and sunny.
He furnished questionnaires to a random selection of people living in Boston and Worchester, MA--specifically where climate changes are dramatic and vast. Dr. Jamison also provided the same questionnaire to a group living in San Diego where the weather is mild and stable. A total of 557 questionnaires were dispensed for this study.
Not surprisingly, all respondents reported that cold, damp conditions influenced their pain levels, however most study participants said that they could feel heightened nerve sensations before the weather change.
Dr. Jamison wrote in the Sept. 26, 1995, issue of Harvard University Gazette, “This leads me to conclude that changes in the barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain.”
The impact of weather on nerve damage ranges from tingling sensations to burning, numbness or shooting sensations. If you experience a traumatic injury and nerve endings around the injury are damaged, you can experience residual neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain is when you continue to experience pain or sensations after the injury has healed due to post nerve damage. This pain is a mechanism in the sensory processes of the peripheral or central nervous system. The brain is sending a flawed message to the nerves, creating the pain or sensation. Neuropathic pain or sensations is what people with nerve damage feel before or during weather changes.
Unfortunately neuropathic pain does not always respond to medication or treatment and is sometimes discounted by others telling the injured person that it is “all in your head.”
No specific drugs are intended to treat neuropathic pain; however some drugs can lessen the sensation effects. For example, anticonvulsants and anti-depressants appear to reduce pain and sensations in one-third of neuropathic pain sufferers. These drugs come with side effect such as dizziness, skin rash and blurred vision.
A non-drug approach to neuropathic pain is the TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) method. A TENS machine is a small device that sends a small pulse of electrical current through your body with the idea of calming over-excited nerves. Another non-drug method is acupuncture.