As soon as temperatures drop and storms become more frequent, many people experience increased joint and back pain. Even people under fifty can find that one of their joints “predicts the weather.” Weather-related pain isn’t just an old wives’ tale. It’s caused by tissues expanding and contracting in response to temperature or pressure changes. Some scientists think cold temperatures temporarily thicken joint fluid, causing stiffness. Not everyone experiences pain when bad weather hits, but people with arthritis or repetitive use injuries often notice weather-related flare-ups.
Here are five things you can do to prevent and treat aches and pains this winter.
1. Hit the Gym
Exercise may not sound appealing when your back or joints ache, but when done safely under the advice of a medical provider, it can be an effective treatment. Exercise increases circulation, which helps to regulate inflammation and warm tissues from the inside. Blood is vital to the healing process. It brings healing factors to injuries so they can fight off invaders and build new tissues. Since joints receive little circulation, they often struggle to heal. Increasing blood flow through exercise or treatments like laser therapy encourages healing and relieves pain and inflammation.
Building strong muscles directly benefits joints by stabilizing them. Weak muscles are less able to support and protect joints, and poor muscle fitness is a common cause of back pain. Plus, studies show that people with more muscle are less susceptible to heat loss. That means patients with cold-sensitive joints have a lot to gain by gaining muscle.
Physical activity may also lift your mood and decrease anxiety. In the fight against pain, mental factors play an essential role. That doesn’t mean that pain is “all in your head.” Neurotransmitter activity affects pain sensitivity. Studies show that depression, loneliness, and other negative mental states can make pain feel worse.
2. Bundle Up
Staying warm and avoiding extreme temperatures can help with joint pain in the winter. Remember to dress in layers and pay special attention to whatever area hurts. Going in and out from cold air into warm air can trigger pain, so try to insulate yourself against drastic temperature changes. Don’t be afraid to be active outdoors. As long as you bundle up, the activity should do more good than harm.
Hot pads and hot baths or showers can soothe winter aches caused by stiff joints or tense muscles. Damp heat is especially effective. You can try a warm, wet cloth if you don’t want to step into the tub whenever you come in from outside.
3. Avoid Joint Strain
If cold temperatures cause your joints to swell and hurt, you’ll need to be more careful to avoid extra strain during the winter. Try low-impact exercise like the stationary bike at the gym or swimming in a heated indoor pool. Other low-impact options include yoga, tai chi, the elliptical, and walking. Wear supportive, comfortable footwear to stabilize your knees and hips whenever you are on your feet.
You’ll also avoid straining joints if you keep a healthy weight. Your knees, hips, and back have to support extra pounds. Carrying extra weight puts more wear and tear on these areas and can cause injuries and arthritis. Extra body fat also promotes inflammation and makes you more prone to chronic pain. Your chiropractor can tell you if extra weight is contributing to your joint pain and recommend safe ways to exercise.
4. Visit Your Chiropractor
Life gets busy, and it’s easy to put off seeking treatment for an injury that only flares up now and then. Not treating a back or joint injury puts you at greater risk for chronic pain and re-injury. Even if you’ve been dealing with pain for years, it can be treated.
Undiagnosed disc injuries often cause chronic back pain. Spinal decompression therapy is a safe, non-invasive treatment that uses motorized traction to stretch the spine gently. It creates negative pressures between vertebrae, bringing in oxygen, nutrients, and blood flow, and sucking herniated and bulging discs back into place. After completing a treatment regimen, over 80% of people with chronic back pain experience significant, long-term relief.
Ultrasound therapy and laser therapy are effective for pain in joints and soft tissues. They both encourage healing by increasing circulation. Laser therapy is beneficial for stalled or slow healing, as it causes cells to produce collagen, a key component of tissue repair. Ultrasound therapy can break up excess scar tissue that’s causing an old injury to be chronically sore and stiff.
Your chiropractor will assess your pain and recommend the right treatment for you.
5. Feed Your Joints
What you put into your body affects it on a cellular level. Diets high in bad fats, processed carbohydrates, and chemical additives wreak havoc. Studies show this type of diet encourages inflammation, throws hormones out of whack, and makes it harder for the body to heal.
To discourage inflammation and pain, include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Try to eat healthy fats like Omega-3’s and don’t overdo Omega-6 fats (found in sunflower, soybean, and other oils used in packaged foods.) Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats have health benefits, but eating mostly omega-6 and few omega-3-containing foods can encourage inflammation.
The lower you keep your added sugar intake, the better. Research shows that sugar impairs the immune system, contributes to inflammation, and may be worse for your heart than saturated fat. Most dietitians recommend less than six teaspoons per day of added sugars for women and less than nine for men. Keep your added sugar intake to a minimum by avoiding sugary beverages, cereals, and energy bars.
Remember that anything you put in your body, not just food, can affect your health. Smoking and other tobacco use is a significant risk factor for chronic pain, and quitting can reduce pain.
Joint Pain Treatment in Northern Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic, we offer comprehensive care for back and joint pain. Our clinics in Hebron and Covington now offer ultrasound therapy and dry needling. Schedule a consultation today to find out how to say goodbye to cold weather aches.