The Role Cold Weather Plays on Muscles and Tendons
As fall sets in we face colder temperatures and eventually winter’s ice and snow. While we often think about the risk of a slip and fall, we don’t think about the role cold weather may play in injuries. Colder weather tends to bring more aches, pains, and muscle tightness.
Cold and Your Body
In cold weather, the body undergoes some changes. Muscles become stiffer and have less elasticity. Blood moves away from the skin’s surface to preserve core body temperature. Sensation and nerve speeds are slowed with cold temperatures. If your feet are cold and sensation is slowed, it may affect your balance. Cold weather can also increase the risk of a musculoskeletal(MSK) injury or increase the intensity of certain MSK conditions. You may find your body moves differently when cold. We move slower and feel more stiff and tight.
People who work outside in the winter or those with certain health conditions notice these changes more. Those with arthritic conditions including osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis often find cold weather aggravating. Cold damp weather aggravates “aching bones”. You may find it limits your daily activities because of extra aches and pains.
What Can You Do?
You can do many things to decrease stiffness and prevent injury during the cold weather.
Maintain an Active Lifestyle All Year Long.
Although this may seem counter-intuitive, the more you move your muscles and joints the less stiff you will feel. You also reduce your risk of injury by moving more.
2. Dress Warm and Appropriately for the Weather Conditions.
Dressing warm keeps your body warm and protected from the cold. Dress in layers. Layers enable you to remove clothing if your body temperature increases while doing an activity. Cover up; minimizing exposed areas helps to reduce the amount of body heat that can escape.
3. Wear Proper Boots or Shoes.
You want to choose a pair that is both waterproof and warm and has good tread on the bottom. Traction is important especially when it’s slippery.
4. Do Not Stay Out in the Cold for Too Long.
If you do work outside move indoors during breaks if possible. Give your body a chance to warm up before heading back outside.
5. Warm Up Before Activity
If you are exercising in the cold, take time to perform a gentle warm up to get things moving. This applies to any activity including a winter run or shoveling the driveway. It is important to perform a warm-up regardless of the time of year. It becomes extra important when the temperature is lower.
Cold weather should not prevent you from doing the things you love or keep you indoors. Keeping active and dressing appropriately helps to minimize the aches and pains of the season and will allow you to enjoy fall and winter activities. A chiropractor can also help manage any condition related pain during the cold weather months and help to prevent injuries- especially for those spending a lot of time outdoors.