How Cold Can Affect Chronic Conditions and Worsen Pain
Winter can be the most uncomfortable time of the year if you have a chronic condition. Fortunately, making a few changes to your winter routine and visiting your chiropractor regularly can help ease your winter pain.
Why Pain and Other Symptoms Are Worse When It's Cold Outside
Arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia, and other conditions often seem to flare up during the coldest months of the year. Your pain may be worse due to several reasons, including:
- Less Movement: If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, you probably spend much more time indoors when it starts to get cold outside. When your activity level drops, your muscles and joints become less flexible and may tighten up, triggering pain. If the weather outside isn't ideal for exercising, walk a few miles on your treadmill, put on your favorite exercise video, or take a virtual exercise class. The more you move, the less you'll have to worry about aches and pains.
- More Strain: When you do venture outside during the winter, chances are you're doing things that can strain your muscles and joints. Skiing, tubing, snowboarding, or just playing in the snow can be responsible for aches and pains, particularly if you aren't usually very active. Shoveling your driveway after a major snowstorm may also stress your joints, muscles, and tissues, causing pain for a day or two or even longer. Reduce strain by doing a few warm-up exercises before you hit the slopes, taking frequent breaks when you shovel snow, or using a snowblower to make the job easier on your body.
- Barometric Pressure and Weather Changes: A decrease in barometric pressure may be the reason that your pain is worse on a cold day. When the barometric pressure drops, your tissues, muscles, and tendons may expand. The expansion can increase pressure on your nerves and joints, triggering pain. Humidity may also be a factor in cold weather pain. In a study published in The Journal of Rheumatology in October 2015, European researchers noted that pain and stiffness increased in patients with osteoarthritis on cold days with high humidity.
- Excess Weight: Gaining weight may not be similar to other cold-weather symptoms, but many of us tend to add a few pounds during colder months due to reasons like holiday foods and treats, getting less fresh air, or avoiding exercising because of the temperatures outside. Even a few extra pounds can stress your spine and joints. Although you don't have to give up your favorite holiday foods, eating one cookie instead of five and exercising regularly can help you avoid seasonal weight gain and pain.
How Your Chiropractor Can Help You Reduce Your Pain
A spinal misalignment may cause or worsen your pain. Misalignments can occur as a result of minor falls when you're tubing or skiing or might happen if you spend hours outside shoveling snow. Do you enjoy snuggling up in a comfortable chair with a book when the weather is nasty outside? Remaining in the same position for hours at a time can stress your spine, causing your vertebrae to move out of alignment.
Misaligned vertebrae can be the source of both pain and stiffness and may limit your range of motion. Spinal manipulation, a treatment that uses quick, manual thrusts to realign your vertebrae, will relieve your pain.
When you already have a chronic condition, the slightest change in your activity level or the weather can turn a good day into a painful one. Visiting your chiropractor regularly can help you prevent pain and relieve it when it does threaten to ruin your day.
Your chiropractor offers a variety of treatments designed to reduce pain and keep your spine, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons limber, including massage, hot and cold therapies, electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, soft tissue mobilization, and traction.
Would you like to avoid winter pain this year? Contact our office to schedule regular visits with the chiropractor.
PubMed: The Journal of Rheumatology: The Influence of Weather Conditions on Joint Pain in Older People with Osteoarthritis: Results from the European Project on Osteoarthritis, 10/15
UChicago Medicine: It's cold outside! Do your joints hurt?