Cold Air and Muscle Aches
Muscle pain is a frequent problem for many people. Whether you are an athlete, a frequent exerciser, or just someone trying to improve your basic fitness, muscle pains and cramps can dramatically affect your training and your day-to-day life. Many different weather changes can trigger or aggravate muscle pain such as changes in wind, barometric pressure, humidity, and precipitation. Another frequent contributor to muscle pain is temperature. Colder weather can aggravate or bring about onset of muscle and joint pain in several ways.
How Cold Air Affects the Muscles and Joints
The colder months generally bring with them lower barometric air pressure. Gas expands when heated and contracts when cooled so the lower air temperature causes the air to constrict and result in lower pressure. The lower air pressure can cause the soft tissue around your joints to expand in response and it infringes on the joints, which can cause pain that radiates into the muscles. The muscles also constrict in colder weather and are more prone to cramps and spasms that generate pain, which is why warm-up sessions and stretching are so important when training in lower temperatures.
How Cold Air Affects Pre-existing Conditions
Fibromyalgia sufferers and arthritis patients are frequently more susceptible to cold weather effects because their joints and muscles are already experiencing pain so the changes in temperature and weather exacerbate the conditions and problems they already have. Since arthritis sufferers already have swollen joints, when the soft tissue expands around the joints, it causes more pressure and pain than with someone with healthy joints and muscles.
How Cold Air Can Indirectly Affect Muscles and Joints
While it is a myth that cold air causes colds and flu, there are some indirect ways that cold air can make you more likely to contract a fever and the muscle pains that go with it. Cold air can cause your mucas to thicken in your nose and cause the skin in your nose to dry. As it gets dryer, it less effective in filtering out viruses and this makes you more susceptible to illness. Once you get sick, your body raises its internal temperature to create inflammation in an effort to flush the virus out of your body and the inflammation that is a part of your immune response frequently results in muscle aches and pains. People are also generally less active in colder weather and spend more time indoors in stale air that may have viruses in it, which contributes to greater incidences of illness, fever, and resulting in muscle aches.
To prevent muscle aches in colder weather, always stretch and have a warm-up session to get your body loose and ready before doing anything strenuous in the cold air. Keep yourself warm by wearing layers of clothing to try to prevent the muscles from constricting in the cold, and practice good general health habits to prevent yourself from getting sick.