Cold Weather & Pain
With few exceptions, patients who suffer from chronic pain suffer worse with changes in weather, especially with onset of cold and damp weather. This problem has, apparently, never really been deeply investigated. What is known, however, is that the cells in our bodies that detect changes in the environment including temperature are the mast cells. Mast cells are found throughout the body including the brain and are notably found adjacent to nerves and blood vessels, especially near the body’s surface.
Mast cells functions
Mast cells function as sentinels to the environment and will react to changes they identify. These reactions take the form of responding to allergens, infections and injury. When mast cells react, they “activate” and release any number of the up to 200 chemicals and compounds they manufacture and store. These compounds, referred to as mediators, stimulate other cells to perform their particular functions, especially related to the immune system.
Mast Cell Stabilizers
One collection of compounds that mast cells release in response to cold weather are those that act on nerve cells to increase pain. Therefore, one proposed means to reduce the increased pain response to cold weather is to stabilize the mast cells in order to reduce their release of pain-enhancing compounds. A number of medications, prescription and over-the-counter, as well as nutriceutical supplements have be identified as mast cell stabilizers.
The substances with the best research in support of their mast stabilizing functions include PEA (palmitoylethanolamide), quercetin and the prescription drug Cromolyn (although this medication appears to function mostly in mucosal and lung tissues and is most effective in asthma prevention). Other substances have been identified to stabilize mast cells but don’t seem to be used often.
The following is the current recommendations for supplements to offset cold weather-induced increased pain. With further investigation, additional substances may be added soon.
(1). Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) – PEA has been shown to stabilize mast cells and reduce inflammation.
Dosing: 600 mg 2-3 times a day
(2.) Quercetin with Vitamin C – The therapeutic benefits of quercetin can be enhanced by the co-administration of vitamin C so combining quercetin with vitamin C may be especially protective and is highly recommended.
Quercetin: (quercetin aglycone): 250-500 mg twice a day
Vitamin C: (either D- or L-ascorbate but not dehydroascorbate): 500 mg twice a day
See: Vitamin C
For more information about mast cells:
β-Caryophyllene: Cold Weather and Wild Giant Pandas
The perception of feeling cold is driven by TRPM8 receptors on sensory nerves in the skin which become activated upon exposure to cold, triggering the sensation of feeling cold. This receptor may be triggered environmentally by exposure to cold or chemically by exposure to compounds such as menthol. β-caryophyllene, a terpene compound found in many natural substances including marijuana, inhibits cold-activation of these receptors and suppresses the perception of feeling cold. In fact, studies have shown that in cold weather, giant pandas roll in fresh horse manure which is rich in β-caryophyllene as a means of adapting to the cold!
β-caryophyllene has been found to reduce pain when applied topically and is often used in topical anti-inflammatory ointments and salves. β-Caryophyllene’s anti-inflammatory activity is comparable in potency to the NSAIDs ibuprofen and indomethacin. β-Caryophyllene is also thought to be effective against neuroinflammation by reducing activity of glial cells. These properties suggest that using β-Caryophyllene topically may be helpful in cold weather and may be especially helpful in the treatment of pain associated with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), particularly the allodynia and hyperalgesia.
Topical marijuana products available by physician recommendation from the designated marijuana dispensaries in Louisiana contain β-Caryophyllene and other active constituents that offer these benefits.
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