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Cold Weather Pain: Causes and Reliefs

Learn three common reasons you may experience pain in cold winter weather, and find out what steps you can take for relief.

Winter can be hard on our bodies and our minds. From freezing temperatures to shorter, darker days, the coldest months may have a negative physical impact on us, and we may experience increases in aches, pains, stiffness and joint inflammation.1

Here are three ways winter weather can be a pain:

  • 1. Cold, Dry Air: The dry winter air can lead to dehydration2, potentially causing fatigue, dizziness and painful skin problems, among other symptoms. Cold winter air can dry out skin, causing it to crack, flake or even bleed.3
  • 2. Common Cold/Flu: Flu activity peaks most years between December and February4 when the weather tends to be coldest. Symptoms of the flu and the common cold include coughing, sneezing, congestion, fever – and body aches and pains, especially with the flu5. During the winter months, common cold symptoms are more likely to evolve into illnesses such as bronchiolitis6 and pneumococcal diseases7, including pneumonia. In the coldest months, older adults are particularly susceptible to hypothermia.8
  • 3. Snow and Ice: Snow and ice create the idyllic visual setting for winter, but they also have to be shoveled off of sidewalks and driveways. But shoveling snow, particularly once it’s started to melt and become heavier; if not done correctly, that can lead to strained limbs and backs.9 Wet, icy streets and sidewalks also make us more vulnerable to slips and falls, the result of which can lead to strains, bruises, and even fractures10 or muscle strains11.

This all might make winter sound dark and dismal, but it doesn’t have to be! These four comfort measures can help you prevent the aches and pains that can come with cold winter weather.

  • 1. Lotion Regularly. Quench dry, thirsty skin by beginning each day with a moisturizer with SPF. Using sunscreen is just as important in the winter months as it is in summer. Combat irritated skin by limiting bath times, and slathering on heavy moisturizers and creams containing jojoba oil, shea butter or lanolin (among other helpful ingredients).12
  • 2. Drink Plenty of Water. Staying well-hydrated is just as important in winter as it is during summer, and the cold can make it harder to recognize signs of dehydration.13 Drinking plenty of water helps rid your body of wastes, lubricates your joins and tissues, and helps your body maintain its normal functions.14
  • 3. Stay warm. Keeping your body and your environment (home, car, etc.) warm (but not overheated) can help keep you safe and healthy during the winter months. This can help prevent hypothermia.15
    • Dress in light layers
    • Be sure to protect your extremities - head, hands and feet16
    • Keep your home heated and insulated
    • Have your car fully serviced before the cold sets in17
  • 4. Try an over-the-counter-pain reliever like these from BENGAY®. Whether from the weather itself, slips and falls, or other factors, winter can be an achy time. BENGAY® products use topical analgesics like menthol, methyl salicylate and camphor to block the perception of pain and provide relief. Be sure to consult your doctor with any questions, and before beginning any new medications or fitness routines.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4718045/
[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
[3] https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/dermatologists-share-home-remedies-for-dry-skin
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
[5] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605
[6] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bronchiolitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351565
[7] https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/5/02-0556_article
[8] https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cold-weather-safety-older-adults
[9] https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/tips-for-safe-snow-shoveling-2/
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9451314
[11] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sprains-and-strains/symptoms-causes/syc-20377938
[12] https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/dry-skin
[13] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626
[14] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
[15] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothermia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352682
[16] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626
[17] https://www.cdc.gov/features/winterweather/index.html