How to Cope with Pain in Cold Weather

How to Cope with Pain in Cold Weather

How to Cope with Pain in Cold Weather

If it seems like you hurt more during cold weather, you're not alone.

Many people, especially those suffering with joint pain, say cold, damp weather causes their pain to flare. In a 2014 study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 67 percent of a group of osteoarthritis sufferers said they believed the weather affected their pain levels.

Researchers have several theories about why this happens. It may be that the fluid in the synovial tissue that cushions our joints thickens with cold weather, causing increased stiffness. Another possibility is that as our veins constrict in the cold, pressure may increase on sensitive nerves, causing those who are already suffering pain to feel worse.

It’s also possible that changes in barometric pressure cause our tendons and muscles to expand and contract, worsening aches. Plus, the discomfort of the cold may simply cause us to tense up and feel pain more intensely.

Whatever the reason, just pulling up the covers and staying in bed is not the answer, however tempting that may be on a chilly winter morning.

Movement helps improve range of motion, and exercise helps boost our moods, which can help us cope with pain. Plus, if you’re inactive, you may put on extra pounds, which can also exacerbate pain.

Here are some tips for coping with the cold:

  • Wear layers. Layering traps heat, keeping you warmer. And it’s easy to remove layers as you warm up so you can stay comfortable. Put an extra layer of warmth around any painful joints. Be sure to keep your head warm and your feet and hands dry.
  • Move your workout indoors. Use a treadmill or stationary bike or join a tai chi or yoga class. Not only will you stay warmer, you avoid the potential hazard of icy sidewalks if you work out indoors.
  • If you’d rather exercise outdoors, stay safe by wearing boots or shoes with good traction and walking more slowly than usual. The last thing you want is a twisted ankle or broken leg that will be another source of pain. The CDC advises walking like a penguin on ice—with your back bent slightly and your feet pointed out. Keep your arms out to your side, not in your pockets.
  • Try exercising in a heated pool. Moving in water is easy on your joints, and swimming or water aerobics can lift your mood and ease tension, helping you better cope with pain.
  • Afterward, reward yourself for your exercise with a hot drink by a roaring fire. You deserve it!

For more information, be sure to talk to your chronic pain specialist at your next appointment.

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The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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