Healthy tips for winter months to help you manage your pain
What We Know About Pain and Colder Weather
When the temperature drops, your body conserves heat by limiting blood flow to the extremities and pumping more blood to the lungs and heart. This can result in joints becoming stiffer and harder to move.
The fall and winter seasons have the highest variability in atmospheric pressure readings. Many believe that changes in barometric pressure lead to increased pain. While there's no consensus among scientists, several hypotheses exist connecting the relationship between barometric pressure changes and joint pain, including that barometric pressure causes contraction and expansion of the ligaments, tendon, and cartilage within the joint, resulting in increased pain.
Depression, anxiety, and stress can change how we perceive pain—worsening symptoms, so it is especially important to recognize depression during winter months when dealing with pain. Colder weather with shorter days and less sunshine tends to keep people inside and less active. Additionally, the holiday season can bring increased stress and anxiety along with increased levels of pain.
Avoiding Increased Cold-Weather Pain:
Changing the weather is not an option, but making yourself more comfortable by modifying your winter time behavior is. Here are a few tips:
- Stay warm. Do whatever you can to keep in your body heat. Bundle up when going outside—wear layers, gloves, scarfs, hats, and warm socks.
- Treat yourself to warm baths and showers.
- Keep the heat up in your house, (if you can afford it). Wear warmer sweaters and other clothing—including a hat—indoors if you can’t turn up the heat.
- Use a heating pad or electric blanket at night.
- Drink warm tea or coffee to stay warm.
Stay Healthy in Winter time
- Maintain a healthy weight to put less stress on your joints.
- Stay active and exercise regularly. Try low-impact aerobic exercises that are gentle on your joints, like yoga, walking, bicycling, swimming or using an elliptical machine.
- Stretching can help you relax and keep joints from becoming stiff. Talk to your doctor about exercises that are specific to your condition.
- Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, and get a good night’s sleep.
Stay on Top of Depression:
Depression makes any problem or negative situation seem twice as worse, so it is important to address it when dealing with pain.
- Stay Active. Whenever possible, meet with friends, participate in activities, hobbies, etc. If you can’t get out of the house, call friends and family or video chat.
- Exercise is a very good way to battle depression and mood swings. See the list above.
- Use breathing techniques to help you deal with pain induced stress. See our video on the calming breathing technique.
- Take vitamin D. Studies show (See study here) that in people with D deficiencies, increasing intake during the winter months helped combat winter depression. (Talk to your doctor before taking supplements)
- If you experience insomnia due to your winter depression, try cutting off your television watching or time in front of a computer screen an hour or two before bedtime. The light from electronic devices may be interfering with your body's natural circadian rhythm.
- Put on the color. Surrounding yourself with the right colors can help shake you out of your funk, according to a 2015 color therapy study, Wearing and Surrounding yourself with bright colors may aid in mood and alertness.