Top Arizona Hand Surgeon Reveals How Fall Weather Can Affect Your Hand Injury

Dropping temperatures would often signal the time for cozy sweaters and warm beverages, along with visions of pumpkin-carving and leaves brilliantly changing colors. But for many people who are living with hand conditions and injuries, cold weather means increased pain in their joints. While there is no clear scientific explanation to support this claim, freezing temperatures along with low barometric pressure seems to increase discomfort.

Whether your pain is caused by an injury or a condition such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, there are ways to effectively manage the intensity of stiff, achy joints, making the chilly weather more bearable. Furthermore, there are longer-term solutions that may also reduce pain, especially if the joint pains are symptoms of an underlying condition. Dr. Fitzmaurice of the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Phoenix, AZ is a double board-certified, fellowship-trained hand surgeon who provides the best possible care because he has a passion for helping others. In his quest to provide the very highest standard of care, Dr. Fitzmaurice has pioneered several new techniques and procedures that improve visualization and reduce surgical impact, leading to optimal results with a rapid return to life, work, and activity.

How Cold Weather Can Aggravate Your Hand Injury

While you may complain of joint pain more often during fall and winter than other seasons of the year, there is inadequate scientific research to justify why this is. Most people who have chronic joint disorders, however, will agree that there is a link between cold weather and joint pain. 

The following are possible reasons for cold weather-related joint pain:

  • Inactivity – cold weather will often make you less active, and long periods of inactivity can lead to bone and joint stiffness, which causes you to feel more pain.
  • Thickening of joint fluid – similar to how oil keeps a vehicle running smoothly, you have joint fluid that keeps your system lubricated and acts as a shock absorber. Much like oil, cold weather can cause joint fluid to move more slowly, affecting its overall function. This can cause stiff and creaking joints, resulting in pain that feels as though it is seeping deep into your bones.
  • Changes in barometric pressure – when the atmospheric pressure drops and the weather becomes colder, the lower air pressure pushes less against the body, causing the expansion of tissues. This can put pressure on the joints, resulting in pain. Cold weather and atmospheric pressure changes can also cause increased nerve sensitivity and poor blood circulation.
  • Increased sensitivity of joint nerves – cold weather can make your pain receptors more sensitive, making you feel more significant pain. If your condition is caused by an injury, the nerves in your joint can be hypersensitive to changes in weather due to adhesions, scarring, and inflammation.

Keep Your Injuries Safe in the Cold

There are ways to curb an injury’s pain in the cold, helping improve day-to-day functionality and protecting those vulnerable joints.

  • Rest – you can promote healing by not using the injured hand until the pain goes away.
  • Stay warm – dress in layers, use electric blankets, and keep your home heated. Staying warm may help reduce pain and keep you more comfortable.
  • Stretch – gently stretch the injured muscle, tendon, or ligament, or as advised by your doctor.
  • Exercise – when allowed by your doctor to exercise, reduce the duration, intensity, and frequency of workouts until your injury is completely healed.
  • Prevent swelling – if you have arthritis in the hands, use well-fitted gloves or Oedema gloves to help provide gentle compression, reduce swelling, and improve stability.
  • Take pain medications and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs – painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol will help provide relief, but be sure to first consult with your doctor before taking any pain medication.

What are Chronic Cold Hands? 

Cold sensitivity is a common complaint following hand injuries. This may be especially true for those with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). There are two reasons for this condition: injured soft tissues or an inflammation that traps parts of the wrist and hand (pinched nerves), creating pressure on the blood vessels. When blood circulation is restricted, hands will get cold more quickly in cold weather. Therefore, along with numbness and tingling in the hand or arm, cold hands is a symptom of CTS. However, those with CTS will often experience chronic cold hands even in mild weather.

With limited blood flow, the hands not only become chronically cold, but they can also lack nutrients, leading to loss of feeling, clumsiness, and weakened grip strength.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it is best to be checked and treated by a top hand surgeon because symptoms can worsen and last a long time. Dr. Fitzmaurice is always pushing to expand the precision of hand surgery in Phoenix, AZ by innovating new techniques that improve visualization and enable more complete treatment using a minimally-invasive approach, helping you get back to your life more quickly and with optimal results. The sooner you get diagnosed and treated for CTS, the easier it can be treated.

Managing Pain When the Temperature Drops

Pain relief is possible. There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage joint pain during cold weather. In addition to pain medication, the following recommendations may help reduce your pain:

  • Stay active – Try to keep moving. By exercising your joints, you get to increase blood circulation and help reduce stiffness. Doing a few stretches will also keep your joints strong and limber. By building up muscle and bone strength, you are reducing pressure on your joints and making them less prone to injuries. During colder days, take your workouts indoors. You can use weights and resistance bands, or follow low-impact at-home cardio, yoga, or strengthening routines online. But keep in mind to respect your personal limits and to not overdo it.
  • Stay warm – In addition to bundling up with layers of clothing, try hot water bottles, heating pads, and warm baths and showers to help relax muscles and ease stiff and painful joints.
  • Get a massage – targeted massage therapy will help relax the muscles, improve blood circulation, and lubricate the joints.
  • Eat well – a nutrient-rich diet will not only prevent weight gain (extra pounds will only put added stress on painful joints), but it will also promote joint and overall health. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon will help reduce inflammation in the joints, while dark, leafy greens rich in Vitamin K like spinach will help strengthen bones. Vitamin C-packed foods such as tomatoes and oranges can help prevent pain and cartilage loss associated with arthritis.
  • Stay healthy – by getting enough sleep, not smoking, and maintaining a positive outlook/mood (keeping your mind engaged with activities you enjoy), you get to help maintain the body’s resting level of inflammation at a lower level.

Treat Your Injuries Before the Cold Hits 

Preparation is key. If you are already aware of any injuries or if you’ve noticed persistent pain, swelling, inflammation, and other new symptoms that can’t be relieved by conservative treatments, seek medical attention. By getting treated early, you may be able to relieve joint pain symptoms or even eliminate them, decrease the likelihood of other complications, and avoid more invasive surgical procedures.

At the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute, treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand injuries may include:

  • Wrist splints to help keep the wrist in the most neutral position possible
  • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation, pain, numbness, and other symptoms
  • Stem cell therapies for the treatment and alleviation of joint pain
  • EndoTech® –a minimally-invasive instrumentation system that provides the most advanced visualization of any endoscopic hand surgery technique

At the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute, our team strives to always administer the best, most effective care for our patients. We are committed to treating joint pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other hand, wrist, and elbow conditions by providing treatment that is optimally effective at providing relief and restoring hand function, helping you get back to regular life as quickly as possible.

Schedule A Consultation Today

Never dread the cold weather again by getting your hand injury or joint condition checked and treated. To learn more, contact the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Phoenix, AZ or call (480) 719-4750.

Fitzmaurice Hand Institute
8841 E Bell Rd #201
Scottsdale, AZ 85260