Cold weather months wreaking havoc on your joints? You're not alone, many people suffer from joint aches or discomfort during the wintertime. This is particularly true for those suffering from underlying health conditions, such as arthritis. In the United States, for example, millions of people experience severe joint pain related to arthritis.
But why do my joints ache in cold weather?
At the moment there isn't enough research to determine why low temperatures may lead to joint aches. One common theory is related to barometric pressure, the pressure within the Earth's atmosphere. According to Lauren Farrell, M.S.P.T., a physical therapist and clinic director of Professional Physical Therapy, "changes in barometric pressure can cause an inflammatory response in the joints".
Okay, so how can I prevent or reduce joint discomfort in the winter?
Another theory suggests that because the cold causes the body to conserve heat, more blood is sent to organs in the center of the body. This results in less blood flow to the limbs, which can cause stiffness that results in pain or discomfort. This may explain why most people complain of joint pain in places like their knees and hips. However, there is still insufficient evidence that proves that these effects are occurring in the body due to the cold.
With temperatures set to stay low for the upcoming months, try the following five tips to keep your joints happy this winter!
1) Keep moving!
We know it may be tempting to do nothing else but curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea or glass of red wine as soon as it gets cold and dark. With many gyms still closed, exercising at home or outdoors are the only options for many of us. And although cold weather might not be exactly the most inviting for an outdoor workout, it's still important to exercise, ideally both inside and outdoors. Movement is so important for joint health as it helps to maintain joint function and mobility. Building strength in your muscles can also help protect your joints.
Low impact activities such as walking are a great way to keep yourself active even during the winter. Just make sure you warm up before heading out for a longer walk or run. This is especially the case if you're a runner but find your joint pain flaring up during cold weather months. Spending at least five to ten minutes warming up beforehand may help in preventing soreness. Insufficient warmups may turn stiffness into injury. If you'd rather stay indoors then doing yoga or Pilates is also a great way to incorporate low impact activities into your daily routine. They also have the added benefit of improving flexibility and mobility. Still sound like too much? Even including a light stretching routine can help reduce stiffness and help get the blood flowing.
Those with underlying health conditions, such as arthritis, should consult with their physician before beginning a new exercise regime.
2) Stay warm
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's also an important one! Making sure that you wear enough layers is important during the colder months, especially when your joints feel stiff or sore. If you're heading outside, layer up with light breathable layers and focus on keeping your core warm, as this can help improve circulation. But don't neglect your limbs! Gloves, warm socks, thermals - all of these can help keep you nice and warm.
Staying warm indoors is also important for the health and wellness of your joints. Hot water bottles, heating pads or hot baths can help to relax your muscles and may help soothe the unpleasant side effects of the cold. Take care to remove heating pads after about 20 minutes or so if applied directly onto sore joints.
3) Remember to hydrate
During the winter it can be easy to forget to drink enough water, but it's just as crucial for your body to be hydrated when it's cold. Water helps to flush out toxins from the system which is helpful for reducing inflammation in the body.
Drinking enough water also helps to keep you active as dehydrated muscles are more prone to cramps and stiffness. Sufficient hydration helps to keep joints lubricated which can help reduce joint discomfort and creakiness. Health and wellness experts generally recommend drinking about eight cups of water per day.
4) Nutrition is key
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet has many health benefits, including for your joints. Diet plays a key role in maintaining the musculoskeletal system and therefore in preventing aches and discomfort in the body. Omega-fatty acids, for example, play a role in supporting joint health which may help reduce or prevent soreness. Making sure that you get all the necessary nutrients is vital during the winter, helping you to stay healthy, active and ache-free.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to get all the nutrients we need from diet alone. If this is the case, you might consider adding supplements to your daily routine, for example, by taking a vitamin or mineral supplement. Some natural supplements that are used by some people to support joint health include turmeric and cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD products have increased in popularity in the health and wellness sector. People take CBD for its various health benefits, and have found that using CBD may help with anything from stress and sleeplessness to soreness. Due to their increasing popularity, there are various CBD products available, from CBD oil to creams and capsules. People use CBD creams, for example, as a topical treatment for joint discomfort. CBD is also sometimes combined with other ingredients, such as turmeric, which has been shown to promote joint mobility.
So you may be wondering, what is CBD used for?
5) Relax and recover
It's important to also take the time to rest when you need it. If your joint pain is flaring up, and you've been advised by a medical professional to rest, then this is definitely advice you should follow. Or, if you've been staying active and maintaining an exercise routine, remember that rest days are equally as important as your workouts. The body needs time to recover so that it can perform better.
Sleep is another factor that is vital for recovery, as it is crucial to our physical and mental well-being. Yet so many of us are regularly deprived of quality sleep, and this may have detrimental effects on joint health and pain levels. According to the Arthritis Foundation, some studies show that insufficient sleep may cause more joint pain, because "sleep problems may lead to increased inflammation throughout the body".
Ensuring that you are well-rested may help reduce physical discomfort so that you feel better, even during these cold and dark months.
All the best,