Why Does My Sports Injury Hurt More in Winter?February 21, 2019
You hear people saying it all the time, especially in winter—”It’s going to snow (or rain)…I can feel it in my bones.” While having a sports injury can make you a fairly accurate predictor of the weather, it can also cause significantly more pain and discomfort in the cold months. Not only that, but exercising in winter can even increase the likelihood of sustaining a sports injury like a muscle strain or tear.
At Total Performance, our doctors don’t just provide post-surgery physical therapy for patients in and around Horsham, PA, but we also treat cases of sports injuries, arthritis, and many other types of pain. Here’s why your injury actually can be more painful in the winter, and what you can do to help alleviate it.
Not Just a Myth
It’s not merely a myth that many patients experience increased discomfort in their injuries in colder weather. Regardless if you have suffered from a sports injury or other orthopedic problem, cold weather can magnify the associated pain, especially in the joints or for those with chronic arthritis. But why? There isn’t one single cause. In fact, this increased sensitivity can be caused by a number of contributing factors.
The Likely Culprits
Research has led experts to develop several theories as to why these types of pain can be heightened in the winter. For example, some studies have shown that since the body conserves heat in colder weather, sending more blood to the organs in the center of the body, such as the lungs and heart, it causes blood vessels in the arms, legs, and joints to constrict. This decreased blood flow results in making these areas colder and stiffer, causing increased pain and discomfort.
Another theory is that changes in barometric pressure can create an inflammatory response in joints and other areas of the body. This response leads to changes in circulation and even nerve fiber sensitivity, resulting in an increase in aches and pains, especially in areas of the body that have already sustained an injury or suffer from arthritis.
Fighting Off Old Man Winter
The cold weather and the additional discomfort it can bring to your sports injury or arthritis is enough to make you grab a blanket and hot chocolate and hit the couch. However, hibernating during the winter is actually the last thing you want to do.
Here’s what you can do to mitigate the effect that cold weather has on your joints, arthritis, or previous injury:
Be certain to bundle up, even if you’re indoors. Protect your joints from the cold by wearing clothing that’s breathable and wicks away moisture. Hands and feet can be especially vulnerable in winter, so wear gloves when necessary and prevent your feet from getting wet by wearing waterproof boots.
If you’re going to be exercising outdoors, make sure you warm up properly. Even though this is critical before any workout, it’s especially important in winter. By taking a little extra time to warm up and stretch, you’ll help to keep everything more limber, which can prevent stiffness from turning into an injury.
In winter months, it is common for people to become more sedentary. This can lead to an increase in stiffness and muscle tightness, which can complicate things and lead to more pain and discomfort. Make sure you’re staying active throughout the entire winter season. Even if it’s too treacherous to venture outside, you can use small weights, an exercise ball, or even perform bodyweight movements to stay active and maintain mobility.
Remember, pain is your body’s warning system, and if you’re experiencing it year-round, then it could mean a more serious issue and should be addressed by one of the expert doctors at Total Performance. We can help treat your nagging injury and get you feeling stronger, better, and faster.