As the season changes from fall to winter, we have started to experience colder and wetter conditions in the north. Low pressure systems frequently move through the area bringing colder temperatures and more precipitation. These factors affect the human body in many ways. Unfortunately, the effects are negative in many ways as these changes cause muscle aches, joint pains and often a general soreness.
Why does this happen? Usually, when we experience discomfort due to weather conditions, it is in an area of the body where an injury has occurred. The injury can be attributed to one specific incident or due to a repetitive movement performed over a long period of time. Nevertheless, the injured area is breaking down and degenerating. Degeneration occurring in a joint in the human body is known as arthritis. Arthritis means there is chronic inflammation in the joint, which creates an instability in and around the joint, causing irritation to the surrounding soft tissue. Since arthritic joints are chronically unstable, they are easily affected and irritated with any change the body experiences. Factors like overuse, sleeping arrangements (beds, pillows), postures and even frequent weather changes have the opportunity to negatively affect arthritic joints, causing a wide spectrum of pain from a general soreness to severe disability.
The transition from fall to winter also presents other complicating factors for many people in the fact that the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays involve more travel and often different sleeping arrangements and drastic changes to normal routines accompanied by poor eating and increased alcohol consumption. Each of these factors individually can exacerbate a compromised joint, but a combination of these factors is a recipe for disaster for arthritic joints and the discomfort is compounded by frequent weather change and colder, wetter conditions.
So how can you combat arthritic pain caused by this cold, busy time of year?
Movement and stability is the key to healthy joints and overall health in general. Keeping an arthritic joint moving with consistent stretching regimens is the first component. Secondly, providing stability to the joint by strengthening the muscles that surround and support the arthritic joint, keeps the involved joint motion crisp and controlled as opposed to loose and sloppy. For example, if you have arthritis in your knee; you first want to enable full range of motion in the knee joint by stretching the muscles that surround your knee. These muscles include the quadricep, hamstring and calf muscles. Then you then want to strengthen those same muscles in order to stabilize the knee joint. The goal is always to restore motion first, then stabilize the injured joint second. This concept can be applied to any joint in the body.
Remember, controlling or limiting inflammation throughout the entire body is always beneficial when dealing with arthritis. Sound nutrition, avoiding sugars, preservatives and alcohols, which promote inflammation, along with staying hydrated will keep those arthritic pains to a minimum.
So, as the weather changes this fall and the holidays come and go, you can minimize some of those pesky or debilitating pains by doing some simple stretching and strengthening exercises as well as staying disciplined regarding nutrition and trying to stick to a somewhat normal sleep and wake schedule.