Uh-Oh…Did I Just Hurt Myself? Cold Weather Pain and Injury

woman slips and falls on ice

Just like the recently infamous song says, “Baby, It’s cold outside”.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).  And whether you’re skating with the kids at Rockefeller Center or jogging in the park, you can hurt yourself when it’s cold and get this – it’s easier to do it.

One minute you’re doing whatever you’re doing out there and then, BAM.  You stop and say, “Uh-oh…did I just hurt myself?” Cold weather pain and injury is a common problem, but you can prevent them with the advice I’m about to offer in this post.

Things to Know

There are some important factors to consider when discussing cold weather pain and injury.  For one, your skin is more sensitive in the cold.  Blood flow tends to be centered on your internal organs, as your body tries to keep itself warm.  And your body needs to work much harder to keep warm in the cold.

But there’s a psychological factor at work, too.  Just as when you’re tired or hungry, cold reduces your pain threshold, even if you’re feeling a little numb.  You’re going to experience the pain as being significantly more intense than you might have, had the weather been warm.  Your pain receptors are the most deep-seated of tactile sensory nerves, so they don’t get as numb as the surface of your body and their response can often seem out of proportion.

Imagine banging your hand against something in warm weather.  Now imagine that your hands are cold and you do the same.  Due to reduced blood flow to the extremities, your hands aren’t as cushioned as they are in warmer weather and those pain receptors make sure you still feel the impact.

Your muscles are tighter when it’s cold also, which makes them much more susceptible to injury.

Protect Yourself

I probably don’t need to tell most of you but playing tough in the winter by not dressing properly is exposing yourself to the potential for pain and injury.  Your extremities are the most vulnerable, but your nose and face should also be kept warm.  Slip proof footwear is one of the most important articles of clothing you can wear in cold winter weather.

Whether you’re shoveling the walkway, bringing in firewood, just crossing the street or running, you need to take care of your muscles and ligaments to support the health of your joints.  That stiff feeling is the cold having its way with your body, as blood is re-directed to your inner furnace.  Stretching before going out in the morning is one way to protect yourself.  Warm, prepared muscles (as we’re all aware) aren’t as vulnerable, so protect them with a daily regime of stretching.

And if you’re shoveling out there, remember to take it slow.  If you’re usually sedentary, going at it hammer and tongs is going to get you hurt.  Shovel.  Rest.  Shovel some more.  Rest some more.  And don’t forget to observe proper form.

Too late?  You’ve already hurt yourself?  Fear not!  The team at Back & Body Medical is here to help.

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