by Laurel Andersen, PT, CLT-LANA, CEAS
Cooler weather has arrived here in East Tennessee and it can bring with it some challenges. Some people report more aches and pains, especially in their joints, as the temperature drops. This may be related to the change in barometric (atmospheric) pressure, which can drop as weather systems develop. The theory related to this is that with lower barometric pressure, there is less external pressure on our tissues, and they can expand, which can cause pain. People who deal with chronic pain or have arthritis are more likely to be impacted. Some people also deal with sadness or depression in the colder months, often related to decreased activity and isolation. Changes in our mood can cause our perception of pain to increase as well. Colder temperatures can also make our joints feel stiffer.
Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to deal with the effects of colder weather.
Being active is important because it’s better for our mobility and function. Dress in layers to protect yourself from the cold. Gentle exercise, including walking, can increase strength and flexibility, and decrease pain from arthritis. Walking could be done at an indoor shopping center, or even in your home.
Light stretching will help keep our muscles limber. Swimming in a heated pool can be very helpful. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent forms of gentle exercise, and can even be done using a DVD if you can’t get to a class. Exercising with a partner can help keep you motivated as well, and make it more fun. Warming up and cooling down after exercise helps our body maintain flexibility and decrease risk of injury.
General health maintenance is important too, like maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep. So, with some positive changes, we can stay more comfortable and mobile in this colder part of the year.