Joint Pain: Does Every Mile Feel Like Two In Winter?

Down here in Florida, cooler weather has yet to set in. 

But I know where many of you live, the cold has arrived.

And while the arrival of chillier weather can be exciting for some... building snowmen, skiing, ice skating.

For others, colder weather brings with it something not-at-all enjoyable… joint pain.

There’s a saying “every mile is two in winter.” 

So true.

Getting out and enjoying your favorite activities, like a hike in the hills or jog around the neighborhood, isn't easy during the cooler months when your joints, particularly your knees, are achy and stiff.

Health experts aren’t 100% certain why joint pain increases with colder weather. But some do have theories.

One line of thought is that as the temperature drops, your body begins to conserve heat, sending more blood to the organs in the center of your body like the heart and lungs.

When that happens, blood vessels around your extremities – the arms, legs, knees and shoulders – begin to constrict.

And the reduction in blood flow to those areas makes them stiff and causes pain.

Another theory is that a change in barometric pressure can trigger an inflammatory response in your joints which results in discomfort.

Some joint stiffness is thought to be caused by the thickening of fluid within the knees. When flowing freely, this fluid absorbs shocks and impact. 

But, when temperatures drop, it begins to thicken, inhibiting the free flow of the fluid.

The result? Knee pain.

In truth, it doesn’t really matter what’s causing the pain. You just want it to stop.

Here are some simple steps you can take to ease your stiff, achy joints and help keep them comfortable through the cold months.

First thing you absolutely should do is keep moving.

Don’t hibernate. Don’t stop exercising. 

Staying active will help you maintain your flexibility and ease joint pain throughout the season.

If your gym is closed due to the pandemic, or you’re just not comfortable going there at this time, there are plenty of at-home workouts you can do to get your body moving.

Try an online class. Walk up and down your steps. Pull out an old exercise video.

If you decide to head outside for a walk to run, be sure to dress for the weather.

Cold joints and muscles can lead to an increased risk of injury, so you want to dress in layers if you exercise outdoors... layers that you can shed as the temperature rises throughout the day.

Post work-out, apply heat with a heating pad, or even warm bath, to soothe sore joints and reduce pain.

And finally, throughout the colder months, you want to make sure you’re loading up on vitamin D.

With less daylight during fall and winter, your body isn’t making as much vitamin D as it does during the “sunnier” months.

And that can take a toll on your joints because research has found that low levels of vitamin D can be an underlying factor in joint pain. 

Don’t spend the colder months cooped up inside, confined to the sofa. 

Take special care of your joints and enjoy pain-free activities, all season long.

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John - December 10, 2020

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