What’s Happening At Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. And Protecting Winter Joint Pain

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Joint Pain in the Cold: Three Theories Behind Winter Joint Pain

It’s that time of the year when the temperature drops. If you’re an active person you know that this is also the time nagging aches and pains resurface. You’ll feel these unpleasant and sometimes unbearable sensations around your joints.

If you’re familiar with cold weather joint pain, you’re not alone!

According to the (CDC), about 23% of Americans have arthritis. This means around 58 million people stock up on knee wraps and Tylenol for the winter.

We can always blame the weather, but what is it about the cold that causes joint pain to flare up?

According to WebMD, cold weather creates the dreaded pain and stiffness around your joints by:

  • Affecting your sensitivity to pain
  • Causing muscle spasms
  • Causing the tissues around the joints to expand and the synovial fluid to thicken

Cold Weather and Pain Sensitivity

The nervous system — particularly the nerve endings — is essential to the perception of sensations. The nerve endings are responsible for taking sensations like temperature and pain felt on the skin and transporting them through the body as electrical signals. These electrical signals make their way to the brain where they are either processed as pain or pleasure.

As the temperature drops, the cold stimulates the nerve endings. Because the sensation is of the air and not pressure, a different signal goes to the brain. In a 2020 study, cold — particularly extreme cold — has been shown to elicit a sensation that is identical to pain.

By default, the cold is not the cause of actual pain. However, the study above suggests that you’ll perceive cold temperatures as pain when the cold becomes “too cold.”

Cold Weather Joint Pain as a Result of Muscle Spasms

Other than increasing your pain sensitivity, the cold also affects your muscles. Muscle spasms occur more frequently during the colder times of the year.

One of the ways your body tries to maintain its temperature is by muscle contraction. In other words, when the temperature drops, your muscles will be activated – this is why you shiver!

For some people, shivering hardly leads to pain. However, for anyone suffering from arthritis, spinal cord injury, and other neuromotor issues, prolonged shivering causes spasms.

When the muscles spasm or “freeze up,” the pain can be unbearable, often resembling a cramp. During muscle spasms, the joints that spastic muscles surround can be painful and stiff.

Stiffness is common on the nearby muscles of small joints like the fingers and toes. Muscle spasms in the quadriceps from the cold also lead to stiffness and pain in weight-bearing joints. Examples of weight-bearing joints are ankles and hips.

Tissue Expansion and Joint Pain in the Cold

Lastly, another theory that accounts for the pain you feel in your joints during the winter involves tissue expansion. According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, cold temperatures have a way of affecting air pressure. This is important because of how tissues around your joints respond to changes in pressure.

Decreases in air pressure can cause the tissues around the joints to expand and create restriction in the joints. The muscles constrict in colder weather and are more prone to dehydration, cramping and spasm, which is why warm-up sessions are so important in lower temperatures.

As the joints expand, they press on the pain receptors close to the skin. The pressure on the pain receptors causes pain in the area where the joint is. Most of the time, the pain radiates or spreads to nearby areas, making simple tasks like walking or gripping problematic.

In general, people are less active in colder weather, drink less water and spend more time indoors, which results in muscle aches.

Can Anything Be Done about Winter Joint Pain?

Yes! Here are some simple tips to manage your flare-ups:


Drink plenty of water. The National Academy of Sciences says 15 cups/day for men and 11 cups/day for women, but listen to your bodies. If you are going to the bathroom more often than usual, you may be hydrating enough. But if you are feeling dehydrated – lips chapped, skin cracking – you are not drinking enough.


Moving helps to lubricate the joints. If there is a build up of fluid, this also is a way to bring the fluids back into the circulatory system so swelling decreases.

Warmth and Compression

During the cold months, it’s important to stay warm. Not only should you be dressing in warm layers, but sometimes compressive clothing can be helpful as well. Compression will be helpful on the weight-bearing joints (areas like ankles)

Protect Your Joints

  • Avoid positions that strain your joints
  • Use your strongest joints and muscles while sparing weaker ones

Manage Winter Joint Pain with Physical Therapy

The cold weather can cause your joints to hurt unbearably. If the tips above do little to help, there is another solution.

Physical therapy can help alleviate pain, whatever the cause. With therapy, your joints can regain their health and natural range of motion.

Click here to contact us now and give winter joint pain the cold shoulder. We can discuss your issues and how we can help.

To Your Health,


P.S. If you are still not 100%, give us a call at 301-493-9257 to set up a time to discuss the health issues you are having and how we can help you.


Looking for a healthy gift to give to yourself or loved ones?

We offer SAFE PILATES VIDEOS to work on in the comfort of your home. I have created 3 Pilates videos if you are not ready to join a class or can’t find a class that suits your time-frame or you need another day for a workout. These videos you can work on at home and at your own pace. Each exercise is explained thoroughly as to what it is accomplishing and what you should feel. Part I goes over the foundations of Pilates exercises. Part II uses foam rollers and Theraband or weights. Part III teaches more advanced Pilates skills.

Click here for more information on the safe Pilates videos and to watch the short clips.


Many clients feel that the work we have done in Physical Therapy was so effective that after discharge they want to continue the Pilates and strengthening work to continue improving their outcomes to prevent recurrences.

Others just want to increase their strength to prevent injury.

Each session is 1 hour long.

We offer 5 and 10 session individual packages of Pilates/strengthening.

Click here for more information on our individual Pilates sessions.


We offer a Year of Wellness package for those who would like to have a monthly checkup of their home program to be sure the exercises are still valid and performed correctly or to address any other issues that may arise.


We offer online Physical Therapy sessions. These are the same 1 hour sessions as in clinic. You still get the personal touch. Click here for more information on our telehealth sessions.


Live Virtual Pilates/Exercise class: 5 class series for $177 January 31st – February 28th 2024 Wednesdays 12-1 on Zoom


Interested in continuing the work we did or just want to get stronger or be sure you are still on the correct path towards your goals of a fully functional life, give us a call at 301-493-9257 to discuss how we can help you.


A Physical Therapist’s specialty is in observing deviations in your movement patterns to find the root cause of the problem, then effectively treating it with individualized exercises to correct the problem. You will understand what the issue is that is causing the problem and be given effective exercises to do, thereby ensuring that how you move becomes permanent in your muscle memory.

Did you know that Maryland has Direct Access for physical therapy? That means you can see a Physical Therapist without seeing your physician first and getting a prescription. We can evaluate and treat you without a referral. Through the extensive evaluation, if we feel that other issues may be involved that may require you to see your physician, we will refer you back or recommend someone who is appropriate for you.

We invite you to ask about our Free Discovery Call and look forward to assisting you with anything you may need.


This is for those who are still unsure if Physical Therapy is right for them. We offer a 100% Free 30 minute Discovery Call to answer all your questions and see if you are the right fit for our clinic. Space is limited. Call us at: 301-493-9257 or email us at cynthia@wellnessrehab.org

Wellness Rehabilitation Inc.

10410 Kensington Parkway, Suite 11, Kensington, MD 20895