25 Jun Does the cold weather affect my healing and pain?
Have you ever had a grandparent or person in your life tell you when it is going to rain? Or maybe you have you experienced this or more pain of your injury during the colder weather?
Well yes, it all makes sense. In the cold weather or when it is about to rain, the barometric pressure in the air changes. Our joints and tissues are affected and we feel it.
How does the cold weather affect my injury or arthritis?
Cold temperatures cause our soft tissues; muscles, tendons, ligaments to become stiff and tighten up. Our joints become more compacted affecting our mobility. Arthritic joints are already more compacted due to the breakdown of the cartilage between the bones. And, other injuries are affected because of the stiffness of the soft tissues that allow for motion.
Small blood vessels, or capillaries, are also constricted. This causes a lower blood supply, especially to the distal extremities like your hands and feet where the capillaries are small. Soft tissues and joints need your nice warm blood to heal, stay healthy, and move smoothly.
Will it take longer for my injury to heal?
Unfortunately, yes it can. You may be recovering from an injury such a fracture, tendonitis, crush injuries, or trauma; just to name a few. Decreased mobility often occurs with injury or arthritis. Trying to get range of motion back is complicated by cold weather as your hands or joints tighten up. It may feel like a vicious circle of gaining motion and decreasing your pain with exercise and then stiffening back up.
As mentioned before, your capillaries will constrict causing less blood flow. Bones and tissues need blood to heal!
What can I do?
Firstly, it is important to talk to your hand therapist about your specific injury for education on what is right for you.
Generally, it is very important to keep you hands and body warm. Gloves are a must. Use heat packs when you are feeling cold, especially before exercise to maximise your mobility. However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t do your exercises often just because you don’t have access to a heat pack. Although, you will benefit more when trying to gain motion if you are warm. Being persistent is very important.
Another great time to do your exercises is in, or after, a hot bath/shower. After using hot water for hand washing or dishes is another opportune time. Paraffin wax baths are a gem. These are small tubs of warm wax that you can dip your hands into for a nice coating that surrounds the joints of the hand to warm them up. I often recommend purchasing a paraffin wax bath to many of my arthritic patients or for a hand injury.
You may feel frustrated by the good improvements of your exercises for motion and pain just to stiffen back up again. This is when it is important to remember to be persistent and consistent with exercises to make a permanent change. Be sure to check with your hand therapist regarding what your exercises are and how often you need to do them.
The cold weather will pass and warmer days are in our future. But for now, lets keep moving forward with recovery!