In every medical discipline, changes in weather affect a person’s health. In orthopedics, the cold weather can lead to problems with muscles, bones, and joints. Your shoulder is one of the most used muscles and joints in your entire body, which means it’s also the most vulnerable when the seasons change. Learn how the weather can hurt your shoulder, and what you can do to avoid it.
Cold Weather and Shoulder Pain
During the winter, the number of people who suffer from shoulder pain dramatically increases. This isn’t exclusive to your shoulder either. Cold weather causes pre-existing shoulder pain to get worse, which means it’s not a quick fix.
Many people think shoulder pain is only caused from overuse, injury, or sleeping on it funny. In fact, many cases of shoulder pain are caused by your circulatory system and a dramatic change in blood supply. This tends to be the cause for more chronic pain. Poor circulation stiffens muscles and tendons which can lead to some severe pain and even degenerative shoulder issues in seniors.
Keeping your environment warm is a good way to avoid some pain this winter.
Winter Activities Lend Themselves to Shoulder Pain
Winter Sports – When people think of injuries, specifically sports injuries, people jump to summer. Winter sports are just as physical, if not more, as any other season. A lot of indoor sports can actually be more dangerous because there’s less of a padded surface on the ground; falling on grass is much better than rubber cement. Additionally, sports like hockey are extremely physical.
Ice – You don’t have to play sports to get an injury. Winter in general creates a pretty hazardous environment for most people. Just walking your dog in the morning can be dangerous. All it takes is a small tug of force for you to lose your grip and slip on a patch of ice.
Shoveling/Plowing – For the shoulder, shoveling is one of the leading causes of shoulder pain or injury. On top of the weather making your muscles tense, you’re putting extreme stress on your rotator cuff and surrounding muscles. The problem too is that many people can’t really feel the warning signs due to the numbness of the cold until after they’re done. Scraping ice and snow off of your car is another cause of straining your shoulder.
Car Accidents – In addition to walking on ice, driving on ice is even more dangerous. Even just a minor fender bender can lead to a shoulder injury.
Avoiding Shoulder Injury and Pain This Winter
You can avoid a lot of pain this season by adjusting a few things in your lifestyle.
- Invest in a snow blower
- Get a longer reaching ice scraper, or one that’s heated so it takes less effort
- Use a sturdy shovel and lift with your legs
- Wear proper equipment when playing sports, even recreational
- Be extremely careful when driving, and try to avoid going out in extreme conditions
- Wear appropriate footwear with good grip and walk more carefully
- If you start to notice shoulder pain, put a heating pad or take warm showers to help relax your muscles
- Stay inside in a warm environment as much as possible
This winter, keep Dr. Samuel Koo in mind if you start to experience shoulder pain. If shoulder pain is consistent and persists for more than a couple months, you should schedule an appointment to get it checked out. You can also call (425) 823-4000 with any questions.