Regardless of age, a lot of people complain of joint pains in the winter season. While its exact cause is unknown, there are a few theories to explain it. “To maintain core body temperature during cold weather, blood may be routed away from the limbs which can cause muscle and joint ache,” explains Dr Siddharth M Shah, consultant-orthopaedics and joint replacement surgery, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim — a Fortis associate.
According to the doctor, the muscles also become tighter at lower temperatures resulting in stiffness and pain. “Another theory is that the fall in atmospheric pressure causes the joints, muscles, and tendons to swell up which leads to pain. The synovial fluid, which nourishes and lubricates the joints, becomes viscous (thicker), which may lead to joint stiffness. Also, reduced physical activity and limited exposure to sunlight may result in vitamin D deficiency, leading to pain and stiffness,” he says.
How can one get relief?
Here is what Dr Shah recommends.
1. Keep yourself warm: Adequate layers of clothing will retain body heat and keep the joints warm which can provide relief.
2. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise will help keep your joints supple and maintain flexibility. It also helps lubrication of the joints and improves blood flow. Make sure to warm-up before your routine to prevent injuries.
3. Maintain healthy body weight: Changes in dietary habits and reduced physical activity during winters can result in weight gain. This increases the load on major joints like the knees which can cause or worsen joint pain. Reducing body weight can help prevent pain.
4. Hydration and balanced diet: Dehydration can cause fatigue and muscle pain. Maintain adequate fluid intake. A healthy balanced diet with adequate amounts of essential nutrients including calcium and vitamin D is vital for bone and joint health. Avoid consumption of excess salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. If you think you aren’t getting enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet, discuss with your doctor about supplements.
5. Using heat to comfort aching joints: Application of heat in the form of a hot water bag or electric heating pad can provide comfort. Warm baths can also help relax muscles. In case of acute injuries or sprains, it is advisable to use ice packs and not heat fomentation.