After 22 years of practicing as a physical therapist, thousands of my patients have complained of what I call, “cold weather pain.” In Oregon where I live, when the hot and dry summer weather changes to cold and wet fall weather, joint pain complaints increase. As the winter goes on, and temperatures drop and the rain continues, these cold weather pain complaints only get worse. So, what’s the deal with these cold weather pains? Are they real? Why does your body hurt more in the winter?

It’s common for people with arthritis or with a history of joint pain to notice when the cold and damp weather hits. Knee pain, hip pain and even pain in the chest, spine and thorax are often reported with increasing rates during the colder winter months. So what is happening inside the body to create these cold weather pains?

Here are a few theories on what may be happening inside your body if you suffer with cold weather pains: 

  1. When the temperature drops, less blood circulates to our extremities. This can lead to feelings of stiffness and pain in our moving parts. 
  2. The other weather-related issue that can cause cold weather pains is barometric pressure change. When we shift from a high-pressure system to a low pressure one (or its reverse), this can trigger an inflammatory response in our joints, especially for those who are already sensitive due to arthritis. This is one reason why retirees often live in dry, hot climates with little fluctuation in barometric pressure. Dry, hot weather relieves joint pain.
  3. In the winter time, we also see an overall decrease in physical activitywith darker, colder days and less time spent outside. Lack of exercise, loss of strength, and loss of flexibility due to decreased winter time activity may also cause more cold weather pains. Generally speaking, all bodies feel better when exercised regularly. Bodies that are strong, flexible and fit suffer from less overall body aches and pains in the winter and throughout the year.

Here are some tips to prevent cold weather pains this winter and spring:

1. Keep Moving!

If you can’t exercise outside, get inside and exercise daily. Whether at a fitness center or in your living room, 30-45 min. per day of strength, cardio and flexibility training is important to keep those cold weather pains away.

2. Stay Hydrated.

Sometimes when the weather is colder, we may not drink enough water. Water helps keep your system balanced, your joints lubricated and your system flowing. It allows for easy secretion of wastes and helps your body run smoothly.

3. Check your Vitamin D.

In the winter months, we are more susceptible to being Vitamin D deficient, especially if we live in a climate that lacks sunlight in the winter. Oregon State University researcher, Adrian Gombart, reports that 70% of Americans have insufficient levels of Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D can cause muscle, bone and joint pain. Check your levels with your family doctor.

4. Warm Up!

Taking Epsom salt baths, warm showers and saunas are a great way to relieve cold weather pains. The warmth improves circulation and mobility in those cold, stiff joints experiencing cold weather pains.

Once we reach the age of 50, orthopedic pain is the leading cause of disability for people worldwide. Keeping our bodies moving and healthy is the key to our quality of life. Whether you are suffering with a cold weather pain or some other body pain, physical therapists are always just a phone call away. Physical therapists are doctorate level-trained health care professionals who specialize in keeping the body moving and healthy throughout life. It’s never too late to start, and physical therapists can prescribe programs uniquely designed based upon what you need. Seeing a physical therapist is easy as you can come directly to us. Most insurance plans cover physical therapy services. 

As always, if you are suffering with cold weather pains, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, ankle pain, foot pain, lower back pain, jaw pain, headache pain or neck pain, and you live in the Portland, Oregon area, feel free to contact Life’s Work PT to schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapists. We are happy to help you. If you live outside Portland, Oregon, please read our blog about “How to Find a Good PT.”

I wish you the very best in being your healthiest you in 2019!