It’s that time of the year when the temperature begins to drop. If you’re an active person you know that this is also the time nagging aches and pains resurface. You’ll feel these unpleasant and sometimes unbearable sensations around your joints.
If you’re familiar with cold weather joint pain, you’re not alone!
According to the (CDC), about 23% of Americans have arthritis. This means around 58 million people stock up on knee wraps and Tylenol for the winter.
We can always blame the weather, but what is it about the cold that causes joint pain to flare up?
According to WebMD, cold weather creates the dreaded pain and stiffness around your joints by:
The nervous system — particularly the nerve endings — is essential to the perception of sensations. The nerve endings are responsible for taking sensations like temperature and pain felt on the skin and transporting them through the body as electrical signals. These electrical signals make their way to the brain where they are either processed as pain or pleasure.
As the temperature drops, the cold stimulates the nerve endings. Because the sensation is of the air and not pressure, a different signal goes to the brain. In a 2020 study, cold — particularly extreme cold — has been shown to elicit a sensation that is identical to pain.
By default, the cold is not the cause of actual pain. However, the study above suggests that you’ll perceive cold temperatures as pain when the cold becomes “too cold.”
Cold Weather Joint Pain as a Result of Muscle Spasms
Other than increasing your pain sensitivity, the cold also affects your muscles. Muscle spasms occur more frequently during the colder times of the year.
One of the ways your body tries to maintain its temperature is by muscle contraction. In other words, when the temperature drops, your muscles will be activated - this is why you shiver!
For some people, shivering hardly leads to pain. However, for anyone suffering from arthritis, spinal cord injury, and other neuromotor issues, prolonged shivering causes spasms.
When the muscles spasm or “freeze up,” the pain can be unbearable, often resembling a cramp. During muscle spasms, the joints that spastic muscles surround can be painful and stiff.
Stiffness is common on the nearby muscles of small joints like the fingers and toes. Muscle spasms in the quadriceps from the cold also lead to stiffness and pain in weight-bearing joints. Examples of weight-bearing joints are the knees, ankles, and hips.
Tissue Expansion and Joint Pain in the Cold
Lastly, another theory that accounts for the pain you feel in your joints during the winter involves tissue expansion. According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, cold temperatures have a way of affecting air pressure. This is important because of how tissues inside your joints respond to changes in pressure.
Decreases in air pressure can cause the tissues inside the joints to expand. The expansion is also partly due to the increase in fluid.
Both reactions are meant to keep the joints mobile during cold weather. The problem is that the expansion of tissues can lead to pain for arthritis patients.
As the joints expand, they press on the pain receptors close to the skin. The pressure on the pain receptors causes pain in the area where the joint is. Most of the time, the pain radiates or spreads to nearby areas, making simple tasks like walking or gripping problematic.
Can Anything Be Done about Winter Joint Pain?
Yes! Here are some simple tips to manage your flare-ups:
If there is no need to exert yourself, why bother? Sometimes resting the affected limb or joint is enough to cause relief.
Warmth and Compression
During the cold months, it’s important to stay warm. Not only should you be dressing in warm layers, but sometimes compressive clothing can be helpful as well. Compression will be helpful on the weight-bearing joints (areas like ankles and knees)
When Allowed, Consider Over-the-counter Pain Medications
There are many medications you can take to alleviate joint pain. Most of the time, these medications are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). These medications were formulated to stop pain by decreasing inflammation.
Speak to a physician before you purchase pain medications.
Manage Winter Joint Pain with Physical Therapy
The cold weather can cause your joints to hurt unbearably. If the tips above do little to help, there is another solution.
Physical therapy can help alleviate pain, whatever the cause. With therapy, your joints can regain their health and natural range of motion.
Call us now and give winter joint pain the cold shoulder. 2165454034
Sitting too long can cause pain in your legs and other parts of your body. It's not just because you're sitting up straight or have tight muscles, either. Sitting causes blood flow restriction, which leads to swelling around nerve endings, so they get irritated faster than usual, and this is what gives people "sitting disease." You don’t need to suffer through any more aches-and pains at work by taking some quick action today.
Work on Your PostureSitting up straight can be uncomfortable, so you might want to try a lumbar support cushion or wedge, which will help your back stay upright and take the pressure off. If possible, also make sure that your chair has an adjustable height for better comfort.
If you have pelvic pain, find the right cushion, you may have to try different kinds until you find one that works for you. The right cushion will help you sit up straight and keep your posture in a comfortable position.
Move Positions Every 30 MinutesThis is a great way to keep your muscles loose, and it's also a good way to avoid getting blood clots. When you're at work, try to get up and move around every 30 minutes or so. If that's not possible, then make sure you do some stretches at your desk.
Additionally, you can try to move your chair closer to or farther away from your desk, and you can also try changing the chair's height. You should also alternate between sitting and standing every once in a while.
Keep WarmIf you're feeling cold, it can aggravate the pain in your legs. When it's cold out, there is nothing worse than trying to concentrate on your work when your legs and feet are cold. Make sure to dress warmly when you're going to be sitting for a long time. You might also want to try a heating pad on your lower back or feet.
Keeping your muscles and legs warm is another important way to cope with pain while sitting. You can take a hot shower or bath before you start your day and apply some lotion afterward.
Stretch RegularlyStretching is one of the best things that you can do to help with your pain. It's a good way to loosen up your muscles, and it feels great too! There are lots of different stretches that you can do at your desk or even in bed before you go to sleep.
If you're looking for some easy stretches to help with your pain, perform these three exercises:
Make sure you take breaks away from your computer, too. Don't get up and sit back down unless it's necessary. It will keep the muscles in your legs loose so that when you're sitting for a long time again, you'll be more comfortable.
ConclusionYou can help yourself cope with pain by working on your posture, moving positions every 30 minutes, keeping warm, and stretching regularly. Doing these things will decrease the amount of discomfort you feel and increase how long you can sit before needing a break.
If this sounds like something that may be helpful for you or someone in your life who suffers from this pain during sitting periods, give us a call today at 216-545-4034. We're happy to answer any questions and provide more information about our services.
For more information on coping with the pain of sitting down, please visit our website at www.marygoldsteinpt.com.
"We Help Adults And Children In Northeast Ohio, Develop New Skills And Recover From Pain & Dysfunction So They Can Return To The Activities They Love Without Painkillers, Injections Or Multiple Trips To The Doctor’s Office"