Many people report that their aches and pains get worse in winter. So what does the science say?
There are a number of theories:
1) Cold muscles and joints are less flexible
When you’re cold, you divert blood to vital organs, and away from skin, muscles and joints. This can lead to decreased elasticity, and increased muscle tension, potentially causing aches and pains, and making injuries more likely.
2) Changes in atmospheric pressure:
Some authors claim (although without definitive proof) that as atmospheric pressure drops, usually in conjunction with a cold front, that the decreased external pressure on joints allow for swelling internally, which can be painful.
3) Shorter days
Less time to get out and exercise can lead to de-conditioning of muscles. Being cold, and dark, doesn’t exactly make you excited to go for a walk or a bike ride!
Also, the lack of sunlight does definitely contribute to depressive symptoms, which can in turn exacerbate pain.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
During winter, dressing warmly is the key. Paying special attention to the head, hands and feet, as majority of heat is lost from the body’s extremities. Some helpful winter dressing tips include:
- Wear loose layers when going outdoors. Layers traps body heat to keep you warm.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head.
- Wear a scarf to help keep the neck warm.
- Wear thick socks and good (preferable waterproof) shoes to avoid getting feet wet or damp.
The cold and damp weather can also cause changes to people’s exercise plans. We have an instinct during winter to hibernate; however, a lack of physical activity will cause joints to become stiff. Exercise can help ease pain, especially arthritic pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean we can’t exercise. Think about things like:
- Walking indoors, such as around shopping centres
- Household chores such as cleaning still counts as exercise!
- Playing with children
- Swimming indoors, such as Hydrotherapy
- Taking a pilates or yoga class, going to the gym etc.
- Listening to music and dancing!!
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV, instead of shivering on the couch.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Anything that keeps you moving works.
So if your joints start to warn you of miserable weather ahead, plan a warm routine of indoor exercise, rustle up your cosy clothing, or book yourself a two month holiday to a warmer destination!
(Reference – Arthritis WA https://www.arthritiswa.org.au/content/page/winter-amp-arthritis.html)