My Spine's Favorite Season
As a Canadian who endures freezing temperatures for the majority of the year, summer has always been my favorite season — days last longer, spirits run higher, and going outside is finally bearable again. Now that I have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA), my adoration for summer remains. The way that summer positively affects every area of my life extends to my arthritic spine.
A full-body heating pad & less AS symptoms
To me, summer air is a full-body heating pad that envelops me when I step outside. I can feel the sun soaking through my skin and soothing my bones. My muscles, which tense up in the cold and hold my joints hostage, finally soften. Is there any science behind warm weather helping my AS symptoms? I actually don’t know — but it feels good to me, so I’m not going to question it.
Aside from the warmth, there may be other reasons why my spine loves summertime. For example, summer tends to be a lower-stress time for many people. Stress can worsen chronic pain, so perhaps my reduced stress levels lead to lower pain levels. Summer also affords me more opportunities to rest and recharge compared to busier seasons.
Summer means longer, less treacherous walks
Another factor is my activity. In the summer, I tend to walk more, because it’s a lot more appealing to walk places when my face isn’t being pelted with wind and snow. More frequent exercise, like walking, decreases my overall pain. I also don’t have to deal with winter’s treacherous terrain — climbing over snowbanks, slipping on icy sidewalks, and trudging through several feet of snow — that strains my body and worsens my pain. In summertime, me and my supportive Birkenstock sandals can move through the world with ease.
Summer’s longer days also help me deal with the fatigue that comes with AS. In the winter, it gets pitch black outside at 4pm, making it much harder to fight a wave of fatigue. More sunlight doesn’t take my fatigue away, but it does make it feel less gloomy and all-encompassing.
Of course, this could be all in my head — because I generally feel happier in the summer, I might feel more optimistic about my disease and cope better with the bad days. Maybe the season has no real bearing on my AS. But if it’s rose-coloured sunglasses making my AS feel better in the summertime, I’ll wear them for as long as possible.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?