How to Avoid the Aches & Pains of Winter
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
As the winter months roll on, so do colder temperatures and the aches and pains that go hand in hand. With cooler weather, many people experience inexplicable changes to their physical and mental health that seem unavoidable but cause discomfort that can range in severity. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to avoid the aches and pains of winter before they keep you from enjoying the season altogether. Here’s what you need to know about cold weather culprits and what you can do about them.
When the temperature starts to drop, many people feel a dull to sharp achiness in their joints, including the knees, elbows, and shoulders. The correlation between cold weather and joint pain does not have a clear cause, but it is common for the muscles and ligaments that connect the joints to become stiff when winter comes around. The body also tends to restrict blood flow sent to the limbs, leaving joints with less blood.
Although it may seem like hiding under the covers is the best corrective step when joint pain occurs, most medical professionals disagree. Staying active is the most effective medicine, but focus on low-impact exercises. Think cycling, swimming (indoors!), or stretching when joints feel stiff and painful. It may also be beneficial to consult with a chiropractic doctor to see if adjusting the alignment of the body will help relieve pain.
When the muscles are cold, they aren’t nearly as flexible, which can quickly lead to soreness and pain. Muscles also have to work harder during the winter than they do in warmer temperatures, leading to strain and fatigue over time. The easiest way to combat sore muscles during the winter is to take the time to warm up before doing physical activities. Prior to a workout, a snow shoveling session, or cleaning up around the house, get the muscles warmed up with light exercises. Stretching, a brief walk in place, and body weight exercises like squats or lunges can help encourage blood flow and reduce soreness from the start. If muscle pain is already taking hold, a massage may be helpful in reducing some of the tension built up over time.
Headaches and Migraines
The winter tends to bring out the worst in head discomfort for many people as well. Headaches can be worsened by the cold temperatures due to changes in air pressure and humidity, as can migraines. High winds combined with frigid temperature also contribute to increased frequency of headaches and migraines. In some cases, these conditions cause the blood vessels to constrict which then causes a brain freeze-like effect.
There are several simple methods to reduce the frequency and severity of winter headaches, most of which are focused on leading a healthy lifestyle. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and nutrients is helpful, as is getting enough vitamin D during the winter months. Some also recommend getting more sleep during the winter and staying hydrated throughout each day. These easy steps keep winter headaches and migraines at bay for most.
The winter months do not have to be a painful time of year. However, beating the discomfort requires an understanding of the causes of winter aches and pains, along with the steps you can take to fight them off whenever possible.