Many patients complain that they have pain as a direct result of the cold and unpleasant weather in winter. The truth is that cold weather has many effects on the body that can create pain or stiffness, but you can combat these with a little effort and experience relief.
When your body is cold, your blood doesn’t circulate as well or as quickly, which can cause a feeling of stiffness or pain. This can be especially true for people with arthritis, who may already experience discomfort as a result of poor circulation. In addition, short dark and cold days can also encourage us to be less active, forgoing a run outside to stay in with a hot cup of tea instead.
Although the urge is often to avoid exercise during the winter months, activity can be the best medicine. Movement and cardiovascular activity both increase circulation, which can actually reduce stiffness and pain in your joints. Finding ways to continue or even increase your activity during the cold winter days can help you avoid pain and power through the symptoms of depression so often associated with a decrease in sunlight.
Barometric pressure changes also occur along with inclement winter weather. Studies show that changes in barometric pressure can cause pain for arthritis sufferers and those who experience joint pain. As the pressure on the barometer drops, arthritic patients and those of us who have had injuries to bones or joints will often say they can “feel” the weather changing – largely due to this change in the joint. A heating pad or even a warm blanket can help reduce pain and stiffness. Again, increasing activity can help by improving circulation and making it easier for your body to heat itself from within.
Most of us turn up the heat in the winter, causing the indoor humidity to drop. Paired with the decreased humidity in the outdoor environment due to cold temperatures, it can be very easy to become dehydrated. Proper hydration can help you to maintain healthy circulation and lubricates the joints, preventing the pain and stiffness that is associated with tissues that are shrunken from a lack of water. Make sure that you drink lots of water during the winter months – it may also elevate your energy levels and help you to be more active.
Don’t forget to dress warmly: you may not realize that being cold can cause you to hunch, clench your muscles, or even shiver. When you do these things, your muscles are actually working, performing tiny isometric exercises the entire time that you are cold. This can ruin your posture or even cause fatigue from the constant effort to keep warm. Hunching is very common when we are cold, causing you to shorten your neck, fold your shoulder in toward your chest, and round your back forward, causing poor posture and resulting in pain and soreness in the neck and back. Be sure to wear layers and stay warm so that you can maintain good posture and are not constantly fighting to stay warm.
Move Better can help you use physical therapy to overcome the pain and stiffness of the season with targeted exercises and techniques. Using physical therapy to address the symptoms of arthritis is very effective, and can help you break free from the limitations of winter pain and stiffness. Learning proper posture can help you avoid hunching and poor posture, and our therapists can teach you the best exercises to maintain strong, healthy joints.
Move Better Physical Therapy can also help you beat the winter blues and eliminate your pain by helping you to get more active. Let us help you look forward to Spring by enrolling in our Run Better program. Not only will the program help you to alleviate the symptoms of weather related pain, but you can learn to be a better runner and prepare to be the fastest runner in your first 5k next spring! You are sure to see results, feel better through the winter, and enjoy the ability to “Run Better” next season.