As the temperature continues to drop and as we inch closer to winter, many of you have more than likely started to experience muscle and joint stiffness or soreness. And while your friends and family may insist that you're crazy, they're wrong. There is, in fact, some truth to colder weather creating stiffness and soreness. But why does it happen?
Continue reading below for an explanation of why this happens as well as some tips for preventing it.
Why Do My Muscles and Joints Feel Sore and Stiff?
The Need to Retrain Your Body
For many people, the colder weather means time to get back in the gym. And after a long spring/summer hiatus, your body needs time to retrain itself and get used to using specific muscles again. And as with all exercising, for your muscles to get stronger, it requires pushing yourself harder and trying new exercises. This leads to a sore and stiff feeling that many people experience. It's important to ease into your workout regimen as your body adjusts to the increased usage. We recommend gradually extending your workout by an exercise or 5-10 minutes each session until your body gets used to things.
Cold Weather Tightens Your Muscles and Joints
Now if you’re one of the people who doesn’t frequent the gym, you’re probably still wondering why you might be experiencing pain or discomfort in your muscles and joints. The answer is that cold temperatures cause your muscles to lose heat and ultimately shrink (or contract). Similar to how a jar in your fridge is harder to open than if it were sitting on your counter, the same process happens in our bodies. As muscles and joints lose heat, they get tighter and are forced to work harder than they would in warm temperatures to complete the same tasks. The result is stiffness, pain, discomfort, limited range of motion and in some cases, pinched nerves.
Now some of you may experience soreness or stiffness all year-round, regardless of the temperature. If this happens to be your case, then it could be the first signs of something more severe than shrinking muscles. In many instances, sore or stiff muscles and joints year-round is the sign of an underlying issue— conditions like arthritis, for example. Now, we're not saying you're for sure suffering from arthritis, as there are many other explanations for why someone may be experiencing pain or discomfort, but if the sentences above describe your situation, it's possible that you may have an underlying issue that needs attention.
How Can I Prevent My Muscles and Joints from Feeling This Way?
Now that you know what could potentially be causing that joint or muscle discomfort, we're sure you're wondering what you can do to minimize the pain or prevent it from happening altogether. Check out a few of our pointers below for ways you can efficiently and effectively treat your soreness or stiffness.
This one’s for all the gym goers. A great way to prep your body before an intense workout is to warm-up. This can be anything from shooting hoops to a brisk walk. The idea is to raise your body’s core temperature and get the oxygen and blood flowing through your body. By ensuring your body is prepped before a workout, you get rid of any aches and pains that may otherwise hold you back from performing your best. As a general rule of thumb, when the temperature is between one degree and ten degrees, your warm-up should last for approximately ten minutes. And for every ten-degree drop below one, you should look to add five minutes to your warm-up.
Something you should consider doing at home, at the gym, and even in the office is stretch. Stretching is a great way to hone in on and loosen specific tight muscles and joints and prevent future soreness from occurring. It may even help improve your overall performance. Stretching can be used to break up long days at your desk or on the couch and is a great way to finish any workout. While stretching problematic muscles, we highly suggest stretching the rest of your body too. Areas like your back and arms may not experience the same soreness and stiffness that your knees or legs do, but they also can benefit from periodic stretching. There are thousands upon thousands of stretches people of any age can use to loosen up stiff joints, and we recommend doing a quick search if you need a little inspiration or guidance. You can find thousands of stretches for specific sports, specific discomfort and even specific scenarios by doing a quick search online.
Seek Professional Treatment
In some cases, a simple stretch or warm-up won’t be sufficient enough to rid your body of its aches and pains. In these times, we recommend visiting a health care professional like ourselves. As we started to touch on above, some pain and discomfort is the result of an underlying issue and requires proper medical treatment. A health care professional can help diagnose your condition, whatever it may be, and can provide you with a complete treatment plan designed to address your needs. At Livewell Health and Physiotherapy, we offer everything from physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage therapy and pilates to help treat a variety of patient conditions and symptoms. On top of treatment, we also aim to educate every patient on their condition so that you understand the risks, precautions and symptoms associated with your condition.
If you or someone you know has been dealing with joint or muscle pain for an extended period, we encourage you to reach out to us by phone or email so that we can get you, your family member or friend on the road to recovery and back living symptom-free.