It’s a new year, and the anticipation of what the year will bring is palpable. Winter’s chill still lingers, yet we make the most of the season with family get-togethers and fun in the snow. But while many of us find ways to make winter as memorable as possible, for others, it only brings discomfort, even pain. Those who have arthritis will find that their joints are particularly achy and doing everyday tasks become difficult to complete. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 54 million American adults have arthritis.
Why does winter cause body pain? Is there anything we can do about it? Fortunately, yes!. While severe cases of pain will need medical intervention, there are steps you can take to ease the discomfort and make daily activities – including sleep – easier.
Before we unravel the ‘secrets’ to managing winter aches, let’s take a quick look at what causes them. For starters, muscles lose heat and contract in cold weather. This causes tightness, hinders range of motion, and makes it easier for nerves to get pinched. When you move around, your muscles struggle to perform as they would in warmer weather. For people with joint-related conditions like arthritis, the cold can be especially brutal. It can make sleep difficult too, whether you have arthritis or just plain old stiff muscles. The good news is that there are ways to manage winter aches and it starts at home.
Moving around is probably the last thing you want to do in winter! Staying in bed, snuggled in warmth seems the obvious choice. But, staying active – and working out – can actually reduce the pain. When you don’t move enough, you reduce your range of motion, which can lead to body aches. Additionally, it can also cause weight gain. Even a few added pounds can place pressure on the joints and increase pain. Working out can help. Remember to do stretches before and after workouts.
It’s important to keep the joints warm during winter by wearing layers of clothing instead of a single thick layer. This traps warm air in between the layers, which acts as an insulator. Keeping warm reduces pain, especially in the joints. It also raises your core temperature to prevent hypothermia. Go the distance with your clothing – this means long johns, sweaters, jackets, scarves, gloves, and hats. If it gets too warm, you can always remove a layer.
The winter sun may be weak, but you can still get your daily dose of vitamin D to reduce pain. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium, which makes them stronger, assists in muscle movement, and reduces inflammation. It’s recommended that you get vitamin D from the sun during midday. Remember to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day, even during the winter, even if you aren’t thirsty. Dehydration increases pain perception, and if you suffer from conditions like arthritis, migraines, and musculoskeletal disorders, they can seem more painful. Drinking enough water also energizes muscles and helps control calories.
The Nuvanna mattress is great! It’s very comfortable and not too hard or too soft. I don’t feel my partner moving around at night and it keeps you cool.
Sleep does much more than keep you energized the next day. It can actually reduce pain. In a study by Sleep Disorders Center at Henry Ford Hospital, researchers found that subjects who spent an additional two hours sleeping – an average of 8.9 hours of sleep per night – had a higher threshold for pain than subjects who slept for 7.14 hours per night on average. The researchers suggest that this could be due to sleep’s ability to reduce levels of inflammatory markers that may be caused by sleep loss and pain. Incidentally, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping 7 to 9 hours each night.
Ironically, while sleep reduces pain, pain can make it difficult to sleep. If your discomfort is keeping you up, you should try ‘relaxing distractions’. These include rhythmic breathing meditation and guided imagery. If you’ve been prescribed painkillers, take them right before bed for the maximum impact.
Along with the above, it’s important that you have a sleep environment that’s relaxing and comfortable. This means no noise, low light for reading to induce sleep, and using a good mattress like Nuvanna. Its triple-layered construction is designed to isolate motion and support the body. The motion-isolation ensures you aren’t disturbed by your partner’s movements while the supportive structure keeps each part of the body – including aching joints – positioned as they should be. In addition to these tips, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule of getting to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day. This helps set your body’s internal sleep clock and increases your sleep drive.
Winter aches may not be completely avoidable, but it doesn’t mean you can’t control them. With a few tips and tricks, you can make the cold months more bearable. Remember, the key is to stay active, layer up, and get good night sleep – three things that almost anyone can try!