Some of us aren’t in the luxurious position of escaping winter for months on end each year, and have to shiver through the cold mornings and nights as we wait out what seems like a longer, darker and colder winter each year. Some of us suffer more than others, as we move like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz in the mornings until our joints eventually loosen up a bit. But there is constant stiffness there, not to mention the creaking and cracking joints, especially when we climb the stairs. Although there are much colder climates than Melbourne, it is still not fun for those of us with joint and muscle pain.
So why in the world are we worse in winter, and what can we do about it?
- Decreased activity – With the shorter days, there is less chance for us to be out and about. And we are also less likely to be outside because it is colder and wetter. Admit it, you’d rather stay home and watch Dr. Phil with a big bowl of soup and rustic sour dough bread. With less movement overall (doesn’t even have to be exercise), we have less circulation, and become more stiff.
- Change in diet – When we are cold, we shiver more, which makes our muscles tense up, and our blood vessels constrict, which burns more calories. Hallelujah! You say. Sorry, not that easy. Because of this, we are hungrier, and turn more towards comfort foods. So you subconsciously eat more to compensate, going for the hot chocolate, the yummy bread, that extra bowl of rice, those hot chips. Yum. But not good for the joints or your general health. If you gain weight, it’s extra pressure on the joints, and your muscles and joints aren’t getting the nutrition they need.
- Change in mood – have you noticed that when it’s gloomy and cold outside, everyone seems grumpier? And when the sun is out, we all just feel happier, and more willing to smile? There is no scientific reason for this, it is purely an emotional thing. This affects our joints because if we feel depressed, we want to move even less.
- Lack of vitamin D – studies show that 30% of the population have a vitamin D deficiency. I think that if they tested everyone, it would be more that 50%, especially in winter. Our bodies require a lot more vitamin D than we think. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone pain and muscle weakness, among other things. It doesn’t hurt to take a supplement. And I would recommend everyone to take it especially in winter when there is less sunlight.
- Dehydration – with us being around heaters all day, and feeling overall less thirsty because we aren’t sweating, we are drinking a lot less water, which leads to dehydration. Dehydration leads to a reduction of minerals in muscles and joints, which then leads to stiffness and pain. Water is the best medicine, and best of all, it’s free! Please try and drink at least 2 litres per day!
So what can we do about it? My best advice would be to move to a tropical resort. Failing that, then, consciously think of ways to move more (you could even just do stretches on your foam roller as you watch TV at the end of the day, or have more breaks at work to walk around), prepare your food so you don’t reach for junk, think about how cold Iceland would be in comparison and be grateful for our mild winters, take a vitamin D supplement, and drink water! I promise you, after a couple of weeks of doing this, you will notice a huge difference in how you feel. And of course, you are always welcome to book an appointment at the clinic with one of our amazing practitioners. The heaters are always on, with the teapot waiting for you on the warmer. We embrace winter here, and love it!