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Cold weather can increase muscle and joint pain: Exercises to reduce the risk

Winter can worsen joint stiffness and pain. If you've been struggling with the same, here are some exercises to reduce pain in winter.
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How to reduce pain in winter? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Updated: 16 Jan 2024, 10:01 pm IST
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Whenever seasons change and become colder, most of us feel muscle pain and joint stiffness getting worse. Especially elders in the family or arthritis patients who have a complaint of increased pain due to cold weather. Not just elderly but at a young age also, any kind of chronic pain can get triggered during winter. If you are wondering what is the link between winter and joint pain, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know and exercises that will help you reduce the risk.

Experiencing pain in winter? Understand the link

The relationship between pain, particularly joint pain such as arthritis, and weather changes is a topic of ongoing research, and scientific evidence supporting a clear connection is limited and mixed. Some studies and anecdotal reports suggest that certain weather conditions, such as cold and dampness, may be associated with increased pain for some individuals. However, the scientific community has not reached a consensus on the matter, and the relationship between weather and pain remains complex and varies among individuals.

woman with joint pain
Exercise may help make winter pain go away. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Several theories attempt to explain the potential link between weather and pain:

  • Barometric pressure changes: Some people claim that changes in barometric pressure, which often occur with weather changes, can affect joint pain. However, studies have not consistently supported this idea.
  • Temperature sensitivity: Cold weather might lead to muscle and joint stiffness for some individuals, which can contribute to pain perception. Warmth, on the other hand, might promote relaxation and comfort.
  • Humidity: Changes in humidity levels, especially high humidity, have been suggested as a factor influencing pain, but research findings are inconclusive.

It’s important to note that pain perception is highly individual, and factors such as genetics, psychological state, and overall health can play significant roles. Additionally, people with conditions like arthritis may be more sensitive to changes in weather.

While some individuals report feeling more pain during specific weather conditions, others do not experience any noticeable correlation. Scientifically establishing a direct cause-and-effect relationship between weather and pain is challenging due to the variability of individual responses and the multifaceted nature of pain.

If you are experiencing persistent or worsening pain, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help determine the underlying causes of your pain and provide appropriate management strategies, which may include lifestyle modifications, medications, or other interventions tailored to your specific needs.

Exercises to reduce pain in winter

Remember, if you decrease your movements because it is painful, it can become worse. So, what you want to do is just start with knee flexion, extension of the knee, or gentle range of motion exercises. Riding a bicycle is also good, so there’s less pressure on the knee. You can also try to increase walking activities and exercise. You can also add low-impact aerobics and cardio exercises. Including simple ROM exercises like flexion-extension of the joint can help increase circulation to the painful area.

Here are some exercises that can help reduce pain in winter:

Seated Knee Flexion and Extension

1. Sit on a chair with your back and thigh well supported.
2. Bend the affected knee to the comfortable range, now try to bend to little more and hold for 10 seconds.
3. Now, straighten the knee and hold it for 10 sec.
4. Relax and repeat 10 times.
5. You can add weights for progression and to increase the strength of the muscle.

2. Knee Isometric Exercise

1. Lie on your back or sit on the floor.
2. Place a rolled towel under your knee.
3. Straighten your leg against the towel.
4. Press the knee down and hold for 10 seconds.
5. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

3. Ankle circles

1. Begin by moving your ankle around in a circle to the right, then the left.
2. The movements should be small and focused on only with your foot and ankle, not the entire leg.
3. Do 10 repetitions to decrease the swelling.

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ankle strengthening exercise
Do ankle circles to get rid of ankle pain in winter. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Other exercises to reduce pain in winter

Wall sits, straight leg raise and calf stretch will also help to decrease the knee pain. But if you’re in acute pain, Rest and include gentle movement because movement will help get the nutrients to where they need to get.

If pain and swelling persists, consulting a physiotherapist can help. Different pain-relieving modalities like TENs, and IFT can be used to decrease the inflammation to that area.

How to reduce pain during the winter season?

If you’re experiencing joint or weather-related pain, there are several strategies you can try to manage and alleviate your symptoms. Keep in mind that individual responses vary, and it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Here are some general tips that may help:

1. Stay active

  • Engage in regular, low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling to keep joints flexible.
  • Work with a physical therapist to develop an exercise routine tailored to your specific needs.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

  • Excess weight can contribute to joint pain, especially in weight-bearing joints.
  • Adopt a balanced diet and exercise regularly to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

3. Use hot or cold therapy

  • Apply heat packs or warm towels to affected joints to reduce stiffness and promote blood circulation.
  • Cold packs may help reduce inflammation and numb the area, particularly after physical activity.

4. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for overall health and can help maintain joint function.

5. Practise good posture

Maintain proper posture to reduce stress on your joints, especially in the spine, hips, and knees.

6. Consider joint protection techniques

Use assistive devices like braces or splints to support and protect your joints.
Modify daily activities to reduce joint strain, such as using ergonomic tools or taking breaks during repetitive tasks.

7. Try low-impact activities

Choose activities that are easy on the joints, such as yoga or tai chi.

Yoga benefits
Practising yoga can help you get rid of joint pain in winter. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

8. Manage stress

Stress can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate pain. Incorporate stress-management techniques like meditation or deep breathing into your routine.

Also Read: Diabetes, stress or joint pains: Turn lifestyle diseases around with organic herbs

9. Get adequate sleep

Quality sleep is crucial for overall health, and it can help manage pain and inflammation.

10. Consider supplements

Consult with your healthcare provider before trying supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, as their effectiveness can vary, and they may interact with other medications.

11. Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended by your healthcare provider to manage pain. Always use medications as directed and consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medications.

12. Seek Professional Guidance

Consult with healthcare professionals such as rheumatologists, orthopaedic specialists, or physical therapists to receive tailored advice and treatment options.

Remember that finding the most effective approach for managing pain may require a combination of strategies, and what works for one person may not work for another. Individualised care and guidance from healthcare professionals are essential for developing an effective pain management plan.

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About the Author

Kavita Singh, Physiotherapist and lactation expert, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Patparganj. She has over 6 years of experience of working with pregnant and postnatal ladies and ladies suffering from pelvic floor related problems and breastfeeding issues. She has led antenatal classes, active birthing classes, Garbh Sanskar Session, postnatal exercise classes, preconception sessions, Women and teenage personal health counselling sessions and classes for PCOD and PCOS. ...Read More

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