When colder weather hits, it can do more than just force you to throw a winter jacket on. For those dealing with ongoing joint pain, the frigid temperatures can cause an increase in discomfort around those problem areas, making it difficult to enjoy yourself on a wintery evening.
Of course, there are a few ways to alleviate that nagging pain in the cold. However, in order to do that, we must first understand why joint pain can be so prevalent in the colder weather.
Cold weather and joint pain
Put simply, wintery weather and arthritic joints don’t mix. And though hundreds of studies have been done on it to this point, the exact reason for the increase in pain is still unclear.
Yet, while we may not understand what the connection is, these studies have determined a few theories for why achy joints may be exacerbated by the cold weather:
1. Fluid that functions in and around the joint becomes thickened, leading to less lubrication as you try to move the joint itself
2. As temperatures drop, our muscles and soft tissue become stiffer, making them more difficult to move
3. Barometric pressure in the atmosphere decreases during the winter, which affects your soft tissue (and any scar tissue that’s been created) by forcing it to expand and contract. This can cause additional pain as nerves in and around the joint become exposed to the change in pressure.
How to alleviate weather-induced joint pain
Without a proven cause for the increase in pain, it’s difficult for scientists and physicians to recommend one specific treatment for joint pain caused by the colder weather. And because each person’s body is different in some form or another, there may not be a one-size-suits-all solution to the problem.
However, because this issue has been documented for centuries, a few adjustments to our everyday lives have been proven to help alleviate joint pain in wintery temperatures:
As is the case with most orthopedic ailments, getting the right amount of exercise can go a long way in helping to prevent joint pain. This is particularly true in colder stretches of weather, where our muscles can begin to ache and become stiff more quickly than they might in the summer and spring.
Being inactive on a consistent basis can become harmful over time, leading to a decreased range of motion and more pain in the affected joints. On the contrary, those who continue to stay active help promote more mobility as well as better overall joint function throughout the body.
If you’re looking for some exercises that can help provide relief for your joints while also keeping them active, we have a few to consider:
Swimming in a warm pool: Doing laps in a local pool is a relaxing and gentle way to keep those shoulders and knees in constant motion without putting too much stress on them.
Using a treadmill or exercise bike: While the latter provides an even lower impact, running on a treadmill is a great way to exercise indoors, away from the cold weather that bothers your joints.
Stretching in the morning and before bed: Doing daily stretches helps alleviate any stiffness you may have picked up during the night or workday, keeping your joints loose and relaxed.
Pay attention to diet
Though probably not thought of as a treatment method, keeping a healthy diet can do wonders for joint pain over time. Not only does it decrease the likelihood of gaining any unhealthy weight, but when done right, it also provides your body with the nutrients it needs to reduce inflammation in your joints and promote consistent activity.
Vitamins and nutrients are everything when it comes to your joint health. Leafy greens like kale and spinach help promote strengthened bones through their high vitamin K content. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts offer inflammation-reducing properties, relieving any swelling in your joints. And vitamin C, often found in citrus fruits as well as peppers and tomatoes, works well to slow the breaking down of cartilage, keeping your joints in better shape than they might be otherwise.
Of course, as a precaution, be sure to talk to your doctor before changing your diet.
Get a massage or take a warm bath
This one may seem pretty straightforward, but getting a massage can provide some much-needed relief for those dealing with ongoing joint pain. The moderate pressure done by a trained specialist can help ease tension in the affected areas, while also reducing inflammation. It’s recommended that those with joint pain get this done about three times a week for two weeks at a time.
If getting a massage done so often is out of the question, you can also consider taking a warm bath a few times a week, especially during the colder months. Not only does doing so stimulate blood flow to your joints throughout the body, but it also helps to loosen the muscles that might otherwise feel stiff.
Still dealing with joint pain? See an orthopedic specialist
Regardless of the season or temperature, joint pain can become a debilitating issue if not handled correctly. In some cases, a doctor may recommend having surgery in order to help relieve the pain you may be experiencing.
In a case like this, consider consulting with a physician at Rothman Orthopaedics. Our team of orthopedic specialists are categorically trained to handle every type of injury related to bones, tissue, and joints. Make an appointment with us online, or give us a call at 1-800-321-9999.