Twenty-six-year-old Smita Singh, who works in an advertising agency in the capital lives a hectic life, full of latenights at work, leaving no time for a regular fitness regime. She still manages a quick run in the park near her house twice of thrice a week, in the morning or evening, depending on her work schedule. But come December, and she suffers from joint aches and stiffness. “It started two years ago. At first I thought it would just go away, but last year the pain was pretty bad. I tried a lot of home remedies, but every night and morning was a struggle.”Smita isn’t the only who feels like she’s aged by at least a decade when Delhi’s winter sets in. Today, more and more people below the age of 30 are suffering from joint and muscle related issues, a trend that can be attributed to the highly sedentary lifestyles of youngsters today. Dr Deepa Kannan, Associate Medical Director, Portea Medical, says, “The present generation is a lot less active, spends most of their time in front of electronic gadgets as opposed to running or playing in an open field. They also consume a diet high in trans fats and sugar, which makes them prone to obesity at an early age. All these are risk factors for diseases like arthritis and chronic joint pain.” Agreeing that lifestyle plays an important role in young people falling into the winter-joint-pain trap as well Dr (Prof) Amite Pankaj Aggarwal, senior consultant and unit head, Joint Replacement, Arthroscopy and Orthopedics, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, adds, “Staying indoors and lack of exercise due to foggy mornings also plays a role in causing joint stiffness and musculoskeletal symptoms.”advertisementWe’ve all heard of the age-old belief that foggy winters and rainy days aggravate musculoskeletal pains so much so that old ladies can predict a change in weather by observing their joint-related problems. Though medical research has not been able to prove why such an association, if any exists, Dr (Prof) Amite says, “Many theories have been suggested and the most plausible one is that a change in weather is associated with a change in the atmospheric pressure, which in turn causes the diseased joints to swell up and pain. Cold climate anyway aggravates stiffness by itself.”Also read: Here’s how you can avoid winter weight gain Pointing out that low temperature causes immunological changes in joint fluid which causes inflammation of the synovium (joint line), which in turn leads to joint pain, Dr Rakesh Kumar, Consultant Sports Injury and Arthroscopy, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, adds, “Some people are inherently sensitive to cold weather, which causes arthralgia (joint pain). Every 10 degree decrease in temperature causes a significant rise in joint pain. Drop in atmospheric temperature, which accompanies cold weather and rainy season, leads to expansion of tissue, which means more swelling of the already inflamed joint, leading to more pain.”Explaining how the cold weather can aggravate existing joint or muscle pain or lead to the the development of new joint pain flares, Dr Deepa says that the flexibility and compliance of tendons, bones and ligaments reduce in the winter as they tend to stiffen. “Any undue pressure on these stiffened tissues can cause inflammation or internal swelling. The fluid inside the joints responsible for lubrication and smooth movement is also influenced by low temperatures, and it can produce friction and tension on movement. Restricted blood flow due to global vasoconstriction and barometric pressure changes also mediate such pain.”However, people who have a history of any type of arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis), bursitis, have a joint that was operated on before, have a history of previous trauma or any deformity of the limb, any neuropathy, immunological disorder (autoimmune disease) or fibromyalgia, need to be extra careful, and are the ones who are most prone to joint pain. Dr Deepa says, “Grading on the level of severity of pain, patients with arthritis and gout suffer the most during the cold weather.” Any bone and joint-related problem can get worse during the winters. Enjoy a pain-free season- Stock up on dairy products. Dairy products are an excellent source of vitamin D.- Broccoli, Kale and seasonal vegetables are also rich in calcium and vitamin D.- Avoid foods that can aggravate inflammation like saturated fat, trans fats, omega 6 fatty acids, refined carbohydrate and MSG.- Consume good sources of phytonutrients and bone-friendly micro vitamins like pepper, carrots and leafy greens.- Salmon is rich in vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids that strengthen the skeletal and muscular system.- Walnuts are protective against rheumatoid arthritis.advertisement- Whole grains contain levels of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals higher than refined grains. These are beneficial to bone and joint health.- Avoid food that is too cold or too hot. Also, don’t bathe in cold water.- Keep yourself hydrated, even mild dehydration will aggravate joint pain.- Fish oil, which contains omega 3 fatty acid, reduces inflammation so its intake can reduce joint inflammation and pain.- Avoid eating oily food and intake of sweets and sugary products.- Whole fruits and raw vegetables supply the much needed dose of minerals and anti-oxidants. Dry fruits and fish are a rich source of essential fatty acids and decrease the wear and tear of joints.- Treat joint and muscle injuries till they heal completely. Don’t ignore minor injuries as they can worsen over time.- Weight training exercises can help with joint pain management. Weight machines, free weights, and resistance bands can be used. Try to start slowly and increase your intensity gradually. How to beat lazinessWho doesn’t want to cuddle under warm blankets and laze around all winter? Unfortunately for us, humans don’t hibernate, and any attempts to can just make the joint stiffness and pain worse. Here are some exercises and suggestions that can help avoid the winter joint pain.- Exercises like cycling, walking, aerobics and swimming improves muscle strength and flexibility of joints. While at work or home find time to walk around every 1-2 hours.- A good ‘warm-up’ before going out is absolutely essential to avoid exercise related injuries. Warming up makes the joints supple and muscles get geared up to tolerate more rigorous activities.- Back muscle exercise and stretching reduces posture-related problem.- Make an indoor exercise programme if you can’t tolerate the temperature outside.- Spend 10-15 minutes everyday in the sun. This increases the vitamin D synthesis in the body, which improves joint pain.- Stay warm. Don’t step outside without being clothed warmly.- Avoid any sudden change in temperature.- Use gloves, knee cap and socks caps.- Keep a healthy body weight. This will stop any undue pressure on your joints and delay the onset of a multitude of lifestyle disorders.- Sleeping adequately is important to beat lethargy and stay active.- Be careful of your posture while sitting, standing or walking.- Treat joint and muscle injuries till they heal completely. Don’t ignore minor injuries as they can worsen over time.- Weight training exercises can help with joint pain management. Weight machines, free weights, and resistance bands can be used. Try to start slowly and increase your intensity gradually.