Without winter weather, we wouldn’t have snowballs, snowmen, one-horse open sleighs, or Christmas movies on Lifetime. That doesn’t sound like a world we’d want to live in.
But as any North Dakotan would tell you, winter weather isn’t all mulled wine and roses. It negatively affects the joints in your body – i.e. each and every place where two of your bones fit together. This is partly because low temperatures cause the fluid inside your joints to become thicker, which can make your movements feel stiffer as a result.
Winter weather doesn’t just impact your joints because it is cold, however. Low air pressure, reduced water intake, less exercise and holiday cooking all take their tolls on joint health as well!
When the temperature drops, so too does barometric pressure. Falling air pressure has a significant impact on soft tissues, causing muscles, tendons, and joint cartilage to swell and grow larger in size. Expanding soft tissues exert extra pressure against joints. That can make movement painful, as well as worsen existing symptoms of arthritis and other joint conditions.
It’s easy to become dehydrated during winter. You may not sweat or do any physical activity, but the winter’s dry air still pulls plenty of moisture out of your body. If you’re a woman, it’s important to drink about 11.5 cups of water daily, even when you aren’t moving around much. For men the recommended daily water intake is 15.5 cups. (For reference, a 16.9 oz. water bottle is about two cups).
At the right thickness, the synovial fluid inside your joints keeps them lubricated and protected against shock and abrasion. When you are dehydrated, your synovial fluid thickens. When it becomes too thick, that can lead to painful joint compression.
Joint cartilage, which similarly protects joints against bone-on-bone contact, is 70–80% water. It shrinks and hardens when it dries out.
We don’t all have the makings of an Olympic cross-country skier. If you prefer to spend less time outdoors when it’s icy and cold, no one can blame you.
But you really shouldn’t let a long winter indoors deprive you of physical exercise. When you don’t move around very much, your muscles grow weaker. Those include your stabilizer muscles, which have the important job of keeping your spine aligned while you are standing upright. Weaker muscles also force joints to work harder, which can cause them to become inflamed.
Exercise doesn’t just do your muscles good. It strengthens your bones: the other major component of your musculoskeletal system.
Pie, cookies and other delights aren’t part of winter weather per se. They are present everywhere when it starts getting cold out, however, and they can affect your health in one major way that you’re probably all too well aware of.
We would never recommend that you spend a lifetime without pie, cookies and other delights. By all means, have a slice of Grandma Mary’s kuchen. But you should practice moderation if you want to avoid joint pain! Rapid weight gain places additional stress on the joints in the back, knees and feet, and also causes swelling and inflammation around the joints.
Chiropractic Care Can Help With Winter Joint Pain
One of the main focuses of chiropractic care is promoting optimal functionality of the joints. When a chiropractor performs a spinal adjustment, their goal is to bring the joints of the spine into better alignment with one another. That has far-reaching health benefits, including better positioning of the joints in the arms and legs.
Chiropractic care doesn’t just help the joints move more freely. It also promotes better functionality of the nervous system, which in turn helps the body supply natural healing hormones to inflamed and other damaged soft tissues.
Several chiropractic modalities can deliver immediate relief from pain and restricted mobility. Dry needling is especially effective at relieving neuromusculoskeletal pain.
If you live in the greater Fargo-Moorhead area and would like to learn more about how winter chiropractic care can help you, then we welcome you to schedule an appointment at Fargo Spine today. Whether you have an existing joint condition or only feel stiff when it’s cold outside, we’re here to help you achieve your best state of health!