FITNESS AND WELLNESS
Have you noticed your joints starting to feel stiff lately? Do they seem to be aching more than usual? If you are unable to pin point exactly why it’s happening to you, then do not worry. You are not alone. Many people just like you are becoming sick and tired of knee, back, and shoulder pain and stiffness.
This time of the year, joint pain is one of the most common things we see and treat in the clinic. It generally starts with a few painless clicks inside of the knees, every now and then. As time goes on, however, these clicks become more common, and the entire joint begins to ache and stiffen – especially around your kneecap and inside your knee. We then hear complaints that standing up from the couch “takes a minute for me to get going” because of the pain and stiffness.
People typically come and see us once their soreness has gotten so bad that they have difficulty getting in and out of their car or the bathtub. And as this weather starts getting colder and colder, their joints begin to feel even worse. So why does this happen? And why does it seem to happen more to men and women over age 30? The reasons are many, but here are two of the most common reasons that joint pain can worsen during colder months:
Cold weather naturally restricts the blood and lubricant flow throughout your body. Decreased temperature slows down the blood and fluid that carries nutrients around the body and joints. So, it makes sense that the colder we are, the less fluid bathes our joints.
Secondly, with plummeting temperatures, we are less likely to be as active as we are in the summer time.
Keeping active and mobile is just like spraying WD40 onto that squeaky door. By staying in motion, it allows the body to keep joints and blood circulation moving and healthy. Just like a car must have oil to get from point A to point B, our joints need to be used into their full ranges in order to stay healthy and lubricated. A body in motion, stays in motion.
Here is the thing, though. With the colder fall and winter days, you are more likely to be inactive and skip going for a walk or to the gym. Instead, you may prefer to wrap up in your pajamas with hot chocolate and a good book (or Netflix). Within weeks of inactivity, your muscles will become weaker and unable to support your activity levels, like they once could.
If your muscles aren’t strong enough to help move and support your joints like they’re designed to, then inevitably you will be compensating somewhere else to make up for this lack of strength. We see this often when patients complain of knee pain, when it is weakness in their hips that is the actual root cause of their problems. If you’re having joint pain, unless you have some trauma, then chances are you have been compensating for muscle weakness and should get help immediately.
A simple solution to combat this potential chain of events is to keep active and moving. Try throwing on an extra layer of clothing or taking some warm coffee with you while you go for a walk around your neighborhood. Your body will thank you, not only today, but in the future.
If you don’t think you can brave the chill outside, try walking around your local mall (did you know Concord Mills Mall has over 200 stores?), go to a hot yoga class, or join us at The SportsCenter. You could even do some squats, pushups, and lunges during commercial breaks of your favorite Netflix show.
A native of Sheffield, England, Matthew Turner moved to North Carolina in 2016, with his wife Rachael, and has worked in an outpatient orthopedic setting, specializing in manual therapy. Matt is the Facility Director and lead physical therapist for the PHOENIX Rehabilitation and Health Services, Charlotte location. Matt's clinical expertise focuses on outpatient orthopedics, post-operative conditions, concussion, and sports/work-related injuries. Matt underwent post-graduate training with NAIOMT and is a Certified Manual Physical Therapist. He is also certified in Dry Needling and Blood Flow Restriction Training.