Winter brings with it some lovely thing, for sure--festivities, pleasant afternoons, great vegetables and the promise of a new year ahead. However, it does bring some health problems, including achy joints. “The chill in the air may cause stiffness, aches and pains or worsen an existing muscle or joint pain,” agrees Dr Siddharth M. Shah, Consultant, Orthopaedics & Joint Replacement Surgery, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim. Though the exact cause of it, at this time, is unknown, says Dr Shah, he offers a few theories. “To maintain core body temperature during cold weather, blood may be routed away from the limbs, which can cause muscle and joint ache. Also, the muscles become tighter at lower temperatures resulting in stiffness and pain,” he says.
Another theory is this: the fall in atmospheric pressure that accompanies cold temperature causes the joints, muscles, and tendons to swell up, leading to pain. “Also, the synovial fluid which nourishes and lubricates the joints in the body becomes more viscous (thicker) during winters which may lead to joint stiffness,” says Dr Shah, adding that reduced physical activity during winters and limited exposure to sunlight may result in Vitamin D deficiency, leading to pain and stiffness.
He offers some tips to deal with it
Keep yourself warm
Adequate layers of appropriate clothing will retain body heat and keep the joints warm, which can provide pain relief
Regular exercise will help keep your joints supple and maintain flexibility. It also helps lubrication of the joints and improves blood flow, improving your pain. Make sure to warm up before your workout or exercise routine to prevent injuries
Maintain healthy body weight
Changes in dietary habits and reduced physical activity during winters can result in weight gain. This increases the load on significant joints like the knees, which can cause or worsen joint pain. Reducing body weight can help prevent pain
Hydration and balanced diet
Dehydration can cause fatigue and muscle pain. Maintain adequate fluid intake during your day. A healthy balanced diet with sufficient amounts of essential nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D, is vital for bone & joint health. Avoid consuming excess salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods which can worsen joint pain. If you believe you aren’t getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet or due to inadequate exposure to sunlight, discuss with your doctor about supplements
Using heat to comfort aching joints
Application of heat in a hot water bag or electric heating pad can provide comfort to aching joints. Warm baths can also help relax muscles and relieve joint pain. However, in case of acute injuries or sprains, it is advisable to use ice packs and not heat fomentation