The cold weather season can be tough on your body. Colds, flu, and covid are top of mind at the moment, but winter also brings increased muscle and joint pains such as knee, hip, hand, neck or back pain.
Cold weather can make your joints and muscles stiff and sore for many reasons, and because it’s common, many people just put it up with it, believing that there is nothing really that can be done about it. However, some simple tips can help, and if the muscle and joint persists, there are clinical interventions that work a treat to stop pain in its tracks.
It’s not just arthritis sufferers who find their joints painful during winter. Anybody who has injured their joint — for example, through sports or accidents — are also likely to find that their joints hurt more during the colder weather.
Some of the theories why cold & damp weather seems to exacerbate joint pain are as follows:
- Atmospheric pressure acting on the joints decreases in wintertime allowing the joints to expand a little bit resulting in the stretching of tissues around the joint. This irritates nerve endings which causes pain.
- Cold weather generally causes stiffness of the muscles, making them harder to move, which may be why people tend to perceive more pain.
- The synovial fluid in the joint thickens in the cold weather resulting in less lubrication and causing more pain when moving the joint.
- Cold and bleak weather conditions tend to have a negative impact on your mood, which may cause decreased pain tolerance levels.
- People prefer to stay indoors and move less in cold weather. This worsens joint pain in people with arthritis or a preexisting joint condition.
Top tips to reduce winter pain
Stay warm and layer up
Keeping those achy joints warm is a top way to reduce the pain. Layer up with gloves to protect your hands, and add extra layers to knees, elbows or other achy sites. If it gets too warm, you can always peel those layers off one by one. Swimming in a heated pool or soaking in a hot tub can also relieve the discomfort of cold weather. Hot yoga is my personal favourite during the winter months.
Eat a healthy diet.
There is a strong connection between pain/ inflammation and the foods we eat. Overindulging in comfort foods during winter could cause some people with arthritis to flare up. Processed and takeaway food can increase the Omega 6 to omega 3 ratios, which will induce inflammation and exacerbate joint and muscle pain.
Stay active and exercise.
Exercise is one of the most helpful ways to deal with arthritis. Physical activity helps increase strength and flexibility, boosts energy and helps ease the pain. It is recommended that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week and two strength-training sessions a week. Clinical Pilates is one of the best ways to eliminate aches and pains, whether from old injuries or arthrtis.
Get your vitamin D
Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is usually produced when the body absorbs sunlight or through diet. During the winter months, it’s essential to get enough vitamin D. Patients with arthritis or other chronic pain show more severe pain if their vitamin D levels drop. Low vitamin D can also increase pain sensitivity. Both women and men should aim for 1000 IU of vitamin D daily with supplements or cod liver oil.
Sleep it off
Getting a complete and restful night of sleep does wonders for your body and can help you deal better with arthritis. Studies show poor sleep is linked to fatigue, more pain and higher levels of depression in those with arthritis.
When should I consult a health care practitioner?
If you are still battling aches and pains, even from arthritis, then seek help. A lot can be done to reduce pain with osteopathy and physiotherapy. New research and interventions can reduce the pain associated with joint pain/osteoarthritis and help prevent the need for invasive surgery or reliance on medication.
Talk to our client care team at Premier Sports Medicine to learn more.