By Nardine Bekhit
When it comes to injury prevention in the winter, we often think about preventing slips and falls due to slippery conditions in the ice and snow. But the cold weather itself can also increase the feeling of joint aches and muscle tightness. There’s a reason why we feel this way. In cold weather, our bodies undergo some changes. Our muscles become stiffer, and our blood is redirected from the skin’s surface in order to preserve core body temperature. We also move differently when we’re cold – slower, stiffer and tighter. This can increase the risk of a musculoskeletal (MSK) injury or increase the intensity of some MSK conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. What is one to do? Here are four tips to help decrease stiffness and prevent injury during cold weather:
MAINTAIN AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE ALL YEAR LONG
The more you move, the less stiff your muscles and joints will feel. Be creative with how you stay physically active so that you don’t get bored of your fitness routine. Choose activities that you enjoy. Consistency is key! Many gyms are offering virtual classes. Check out Ottawa Free Fitness, @ottfreefit on social media, for free activities in your area.
DRESS WARM AND APPROPRIATELY FOR THE WEATHER CONDITIONS
Dress in layers and cover up as much exposed skin as you can to minimize the amount of body heat that can escape. Wear a thin, sweat-wicking layer closest to your skin (preferably long sleeve). Your middle layer should be insulating (for example, wool or polyester), and your outermost layer should be a shell that shields you from the wind and snow. Wear boots that are waterproof and warm, with a good tread on the bottom.
LIMIT YOUR TIME IN THE COLD
If you must be outside for a long period of time, move indoors periodically to give your body a break from the cold. This will give your body a chance to warm up. The colder it is outside, the more frequently you should be taking breaks and sheltering somewhere where you are protected.
WARM UP BEFORE AN ACTIVITY
If you are exercising in the cold, participating in a winter sport or even just shovelling your driveway, warming up is essential. This applies all year round but is extra important in cold weather. Additionally, drink fluids because it is just as important to stay hydrated in the winter as it is in the summer! Because the air is cold and dry, our lungs have to work harder to humidify the air, resulting in water escaping from our bodies. We also sweat in the winter, though we often don’t notice because it evaporates so quickly. It is possible to continue doing the things you love and spend time outdoors. These tips will help you do so while minimizing the aches and pains of the season. Contact your chiropractor, physiotherapist or massage therapist if you need help managing any muscle and joint pain or if you would like an individualized treatment plan and personalized lifestyle advice.
Nardine Bekhit is a doctor of chiropractic at CURAVITA Health Group – Glebe Location, formerly known as Glebe Chiropractic Clinic + Massage Therapy Centre. 613- 237-9000, CURAVITA.com, @ curavitahealth on Instagram, @ curavitaglebe on Facebook and Twitter.