A new study has shown that our immune system increases its pro-inflammatory status in the winter months — blue genes! We are naturally more inflammatory at certain times of the day (early hours of the morning; one reason for morning stiffness), but with an overall increase in pro-inflammatory messengers there is a greater likelihood of sensitivity and pain. Recall that pain is a whole body response to a perceived threat, and with more inflammatory molecules floating around the body, sensitising nerve endings, and thereby raising the chances of nociception (nociception does not necessarily result in pain).
How often do you hear people blame the weather for their pain, especially joint pain? This could go some way to explaining this phenomena, as well as the idea that an association develops between cold, damp weather and stiff, painful joints. In winter, the reactive immune system sets the scene for these experiences, perhaps as a way to motivate hibernation.
As a consequence of these findings, we should think about how we both explain people’s experiences of pain and conditions with an inflammatory character: e.g./ coughs, colds, heart disease and autoimmune diseases, and what we do to promote health. This could also explain mood as there is good data that depression could be an inflammatory condition as well as affect diabetes, also thought to have an inflammatory basis.
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