Why Do My Muscles Hurt When It's Cold? 5 Reasons

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
Why Do My Muscles Hurt When It's Cold
As your body adapts to cold weather, muscle contraction increases and oxygen supply to your muscles decreases, leading to muscle pain or stiffness

Your body has an efficient insulation mechanism made up of your skin and subcutaneous fat layer, which protect your tissues and organs from changes in temperature. As your body adapts to cold weather and tries to regulate your internal temperature, muscle contraction increases and oxygen supply to your muscles decreases, leading to muscle pain or stiffness.

5 reasons your muscles hurt in cold weather

  1. Change in barometric pressure: Cold weather leads to a drop in barometric pressure, which pushes with less force against joints. This allows the soft tissues such as tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue to expand, which results in greater pressure on the joints and can lead to pain with movements.
  2. Inactivity: During the winter, people tend to be less active and stay indoors more. Long periods of inactivity can weaken muscles and cause joints to become less elastic. When muscles are stiff, painful muscle spasms are more likely to occur.
  3. Thickness of joint fluid: Colder climates can make the fluid inside joints thicker, therefore making them feel stiffer.
  4. Mood: Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder during the darker colder months. Because mood can have a significant impact on pain, this could be another contributing factor to the frequency or severity of muscle aches.
  5. Oversensitive nerves: People who suffer from pain due to oversensitive nerves can experience widespread muscle and joint pain upon exposure to colder temperatures. Cold weather can interfere negatively with nerve conduction, so any preexisting nerve damage becomes more noticeable.

How to reduce muscle pain in cold weather

  • Keep moving: Exercise for at least 30-45 minutes each day. Low-impact exercises, such as tai chi and yoga, as well as cardio and strength training, can promote blood and oxygen flow to your muscles.
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated can help keep your muscles and joints lubricated and encourage smoother movements.
  • Stay warm: When temperatures drop, try to stay warm, whether that means taking warm baths, dressing in layers, or turning on the heat inside your home. 
  • Vitamin D supplements: In the winter months, reduced exposure to sunlight can make you more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency, which can cause muscle, bone, and joint pain. Increase your vitamin D intake by adding fatty fish and seafood to your diet or taking a vitamin D supplement.
  • Practice healthy habits: Take care of your overall health by getting good nutrition and enough sleep.
  • Home remedies: Home remedies to combat muscle pain in cold weather include:
    • Cinnamon: The anti-inflammatory and healing properties of cinnamon can help relieve muscle aches.
    • Mustard oil: Mustard oil contains allyl isothiocyanate, a compound that helps reduce the pain caused by inflammation. Massage aching joints and muscles gently with mustard oil, leave on for an hour, then wash off. 
    • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with joint stiffness and muscle pain.
    • Bananas: Potassium deficiency is one of the possible causes of muscle pain. Eating more bananas can help counteract this.
    • Turmeric: Turmeric is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and may help with reducing muscle pain.


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Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

The University of Chicago Medicine. It's cold outside! Do your joints hurt? https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/prevention-and-screening-articles/its-cold-outside-do-your-joints-hurt