Why does cold weather make joints ache?

aches

There is no one explanation for why dropping temperatures can make your muscles and joints ache. One theory is that cold weather causes muscles to lose more heat and contract, causing tightness throughout the body. Joints get tighter, muscles can lose their range of motion and nerves can be pinched more easily.

Another  theory relates to drops in barometric pressure, barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us. Barometric pressure often drops before bad weather. Lower air pressure pushes less against the body which causes tendons, muscles and the surrounding tissues to expand, because of the confined space within the body, this can cause aches and pains, especially in joints affected by arthritis.

Everyone’s body reacts to fluctuating barometric pressure, but people with arthritis and those with chronic pain are more vulnerable to feeling discomfort. Also, bad weather can affect people’s moods; if you are sad or depressed, the perception of pain can be magnified.

So how can you reduce the risk of getting aches and pains this winter?

  • Ease the shock of cold weather on your body by dressing in layers to stay warm.
  • Build up muscle and bone strength through exercise. This reduces pressure on your joints, so they are less prone to injury.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to decrease stress on your joints, especially your knees.
  • Avoid unnecessary strain on your joints during daily activities.
  • Apply heating pads to painful areas. Heat helps relax your muscles.
  • Get up, walk around and be active indoors and outdoors. Stretch before going outside to loosen stiff joints. Staying active in the winter keeps your muscles and joints healthy.
  • Get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy diet and keep a positive outlook.

Most importantly stay warm. Heat is like a gentle spring day for your stiff joints. It boosts blood flow to help flush out pain-producing chemicals and stimulates receptors in your skin that improve your pain tolerance. Warmth also relaxes muscles to decrease spasms and reduce stiffness.

There are many ways to reap the benefits of keeping warm.

  • A warm shower or soak in a tub (dress warmly afterward to prolong the benefit).
  • Heating pads (opt for one that delivers moist heat, which penetrates more deeply than dry heat)
  • Electric blankets
  • Single-use hand and feet warmers that you can slip into your gloves, pockets, or shoes.
  • Even wrapping your hands around a hot cup of coffee or tea and warming up the car before hitting the road can be helpful in your quest to subdue joint pain.

Exercising can also help keep the aches away! Any movement, no matter how small, can help.  Activities that you do every day such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves and walking the dog all count.

Body awareness exercises, such as gentle forms of yoga or tai chi, can help you improve balance, prevent falls, improve posture and coordination and promote relaxation.

Try to include some range of motion exercises into your daily activities.  These exercises relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion.  This could include movements such as raising your arms over your head and rolling your shoulders backwards and forwards.  For more advice on what type of range of motion exercises would be best for you to perform, contact your Chiropractor who should be able to give you some gentle exercises suited particularly to you.

Please be careful not to overdo any exercise.  You may notice some pain after you exercise if you haven’t been active for a while. As a rule of thumb, if you are sore for more than two hours after exercising, you were probably exercising too hard.  Talk to your Chiropractor about adjusting your exercises to better suit you.

Should you require any further information or would like to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us on: hichin@healesclinics.com or luton@healesclinics.com

 


Peter Heale Chiropractor in Hitchin and LutonFrom the team at Heale's Chiropractic Clinics
Over 30 years of helping people in Hitchin and Luton and the surrounding areas of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

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