As the weather gets colder we often notice that our bodies can feel more stiff and achy. The cold is stressful for our bodies because when our body perceives stress, the body’s nervous system switches from the relaxed to the emergency response. Our nervous systems responds to cold by narrowing the blood vessels in our extremities, this reduces the amount of blood in these areas so that more blood can be directed to our vital organs to keep them warm. The reduction in blood in the muscles, ligaments and tendons means they will be unable to work as effectively resulting in slower and stiffer movements, and potentially more susceptible to strains. When muscles are unable to work effectively they can put strain on joints which can also cause pain.
The stress response also makes us to hunch slightly to protect and keep our vital organs warm. This unfortunately exposes our spine more to the cold. The muscles which move the spine will also experience constricted blood vessels, like the limbs, and therefore pain in this area can often be felt when it's cold.
Shivering is another example of cold stress on our muscles. Shivering is the result of tiny fast muscle contractions, which is the body trying to produce heat. Too much shivering will tire muscles which could also make them more prone to injury.
Warming up before exercise is therefore really important in the Autumn and Winter months. Massage can also help by relaxing tense muscles and stimulating circulation. Massage with gentle mobilisation around joints can also help improve joint flexibility. Massage of muscles around the shoulder joint can also help with shoulder stiffness and rounding caused by the cold.
So do book a muscle to help keep your muscles happy during the cold months.