Weather got you down? Do your joints feel worse during the winter months? You are not alone! It is common to feel more physical discomfort during the colder weather but that does not mean you have to wait until spring rolls around to get some relief.
Here are 5 tips to help you decrease discomfort this season.
1. Move more
In the winter months, it is common to want to bundle up and hibernate inside. Wanting to cozy up on the couch often means that we move less. Although we do not want you to push through pain, especially without evaluation from a healthcare professional, we do want you to know that movement truly is medicine. In order to keep our body happy and the endorphins flowing we need to stay active. This does not mean you need to pick up the more extreme sports such as skiing and snowboarding. Staying active in the winter can be as simple as a 20-30 minute walk around the block each day. If you do not want to bundle up for a walk you can try yoga, pilates, resistance training, all from the comfort of your own home. You can even wear your pj’s if you really want!
2. Prioritize your water intake
We are sure you’ve heard it once, in fact you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. Water is important. But did you know that water intake could be even more crucial in the winter months? Feeling sluggish, having dry flaky skin and being more susceptible to the flu can all be impacted by your hydration levels. While these symptoms all tie to your immune system and being dehydrated, they can also help explain why you might be a little extra achy in the winter. Set a reminder to drink your water. Your joints and your energy levels will thank you.
3. Take vitamin D
As we are spending more time indoors we are likely not receiving the full recommended vitamin D requirements. This is especially true in places like Canada where even being outside doesn’t guarantee adequate absorption. Why do we care though? The main function of vitamin D is the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus to support the hardening of bones and teeth. Vitamin D has a big role in maintaining the proper level of serum calcium in the body, which promotes proper functioning of the neuromuscular system and heart action. Vitamin D works with the immune system to decrease inflammation and help fight infections. Less inflammation and sickness often can mean less achy joints.
A great way to assure proper levels of vitamin D are met is to follow up with your doctor, get blood work and increase vitamin D consumption through your diet. A few foods that are high in Vitamin D include eggs, butter, halibut, salmon, fish liver oil and shrimp. Vitamin D can also be taken in supplement form but should always be discussed with your family doctor. Although taking the “sunshine” vitamin will not substitute for a nice trip to the beach, it can help you feel a little more mobile and a little less achy.
4. Don’t forget to breathe
We breathe for a living but that does not mean we all breathe well. When we are cold we often try to hold ourselves smaller and can end up taking short shallow breaths or even holding our breath to conserve heat. This type of breathing does not allow full 360 degree expansion in the ribcage which can lead to a host of issues including but not limited to fatigue, increased stress, cardiovascular issues and increased tension in the body. Dysfunctional breathing can lead to pain and injury. To help combat this, when you are outside try to bundle up so you are able to stand tall and take full breaths. Something as simple as taking a deep breath in through your nose and exaggerated breath out your mouth can relax your nervous system and help prevent your muscles from tensing up. Try adding time throughout the day for deep breathing to help energize you and combat achy joints.
5. Pre-activity warm ups are a must
Getting motivated to brave the cold to get in a workout or do an activity can be challenging. Often this leads to us skipping the work out to stay in the comfort of our warm homes or waiting in the car until the last minute and then getting right into the activity without any form of warm up. Starting a run or an activity in the cold without warming up puts a great demand on our body in a short period of time. Not preparing your body for the activity you want to do can increase your chances of injury while also hindering performance. The body performs best with proper preparation and a warm up is even more crucial when it is cold outside. Take the extra 5-10 minutes to warm up before you start an activity to prevent having to rest and recover from an injury that could have been prevented.
If you are experiencing pain and the colder weather is making it worse, take this as a sign to get evaluated. An Athletic Therapist can help you feel better, regardless of the time of year!
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