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Winter Pains – is it a thing?


Having endured a relatively sudden change in the seasons over the last few weeks, it’s safe to say that we are in for quite the ‘cold and flu season’. Anyone who has suffered the Flu in previous years can stand testament to the whole-body pains that often accompany the usual sore throat and runny nose. As annoying and inconvenient as it is scrambling through tissue box after tissue box, for many the most debilitating symptom is the musculoskeletal aches and pains. Although the flu vaccine may help reduce the risk of the runny nose and sore throat, it is unlikely to prevent musculoskeletal aches. This is because muscle and joint pains due to cold weather can happen irrespective of the flu. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Winter Pains.

Although the start of June marks the official beginning of winter, our bodies may be experiencing the effects of winter well before it arrives. For a lot of people, the cold weather often brings with it increased musculoskeletal aches and pains. Although previously mentioned Winter Pains can affect anyone, people with certain underlying conditions may be more prone to increased pain. Some such conditions include Arthritis and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Many of us are aware that cold weather exacerbates the pains of arthritic joints and now there is scientific evidence that backs this claim. Studies investigating the effects on seasonal temperature variation and pain behaviour have found a strong relationship between short, cold and damp days and increased pain in subjects with arthritis. Although not entirely sure of the exact mechanisms, research has found that the cold weather may increase the viscosity (or thickness) of the synovial fluid around the joints, increasing the pressure and often pain within that joint. Cold weather also affects the barometric pressure of the atmosphere. This change in barometric pressure too has been associated with increased knee pain in people with knee arthritis.

What can we do?

Although inflammatory pain such as arthritis can be quite uncomfortable with movement, especially in the cold, it is important that we keep moving. Cold weather and inactivity will cause the muscles and tendons to shrink and tighten, not only putting greater pressure on the joints but also on the nerve endings within the muscle and joins – further increasing the pain!

With cold, wet conditions becoming all too common, its best to stick to indoor exercises if possible. Good exercises include Pilates, Yoga and even swimming in an indoor, heated pool. Along with exercise, incorporating some gentle stretching every morning and afternoon will help keep you joints mobile and prevent muscles from tightening.

If you are unsure or looking for some guidance, feel free to book an appointment with one of our expert Physiotherapists. Our physios have a range of techniques at their disposal to massage and release tight muscles and mobilise stiff joints. They are also happy to offer you appropriate postural advice and can to put together a basic home exercise program for you to help prevent those winter pains from taking hold.



Vatche Douzmanian


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