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The Aches and Pains of Winter Weather

December 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, John Bateman


Dealing with biting winds and mounds of snow can be a seasonal pain in the neck for some folks, but for others, it can be quite a pain literally. Whether it`s arthritis, sinus problems, general muscle aches, or winter-related injuries, the colder months can bring on a host of potential ailments due to:

Low temperatures. Cold muscles and joints can stiffen and ache; cold extremities can cause soreness and painful tingling. Large fluctuations in body temperature can also stress your immune system, and cold air can trigger runny noses and asthma.

Too low, or too high, humidity. Winter-time dry air can irritate sinuses and other mucus membranes, and make skin itchy. High humidity can make conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia even more painful, as the dampness makes the ailments more acute.

Winter activities can also wreak havoc on your body, whether they are tedious or enjoyable.

Shoveling snow may be good exercise for some, but it has also caused many a backache, and too many unexpected heart attacks.

Icy sidewalks and roads send thousands of Americans to the hospital each year with preventable injuries.

Even enjoyable winter past-times like skiing, sledding, and ice skating send dozens of Americans to the ER with serious injuries every year. Injuries that later may turn into chronic, painful lessons.

And of course we can`t talk winter without mentioning the aches and pains caused by the common cold and flu. With as many as 200 different cold viruses, and estimates of 5-20 percent of the population catching the flu virus each year, millions of people are left suffering from aches, pains and general malaise.

So what can you do?

As obvious as it may sound, the best way to stay well is to stay warm! Whether inside or out, keeping your body temperature as close to normal is key. Avoid drafts and dress in layers to allow for you to adjust your comfort level as needed.

Other remedies:

Stay hydrated. Because dehydration can cause muscle cramps, lethargy, and general soreness, drink sufficient fluids to keep you hydrated. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Use a saline spray to ease nasal dryness.

Shovel smartly. Two main things: Use your legs, not your back, to lift the shoveled snow; and, use a smaller shovel or scoop up smaller portions of snow. The heavier and wetter the snow, the more strain it puts on your muscles, including your heart.

Stretch before activities and don`t overdo it. Muscles that are properly warmed up tend not to get strained as easily. If you`re doing an activity you`re not used to on a regular basis, start slowly and know your exhaustion point.

Try supplements and "light therapy". Expose yourself to more sunshine if possible by getting outside or by using natural spectrum lighting in your home. It`s thought this will balance serotonin levels and help your general mood and body functions. Also try Vitamin D supplements- the vitamin you get naturally from sunshine. Studies have shown that taking the supplements can reduce soreness in the back and shoulders during the winter months for people who suffer from a lack of the vitamin.

Remember -not every remedy will work for all people, and for severe illnesses and injuries you should seek a medical professional. But at least with a few simple changes, you can help keep the winter blues from becoming the winter black and blues!

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