December is here, and we’re gearing up for all the fun winter brings, from snowmen and ice skating to holiday celebrations. But for those who struggle with symptoms of in wrists and hands -- one of the most common orthopedic conditions in the world --, winter can also bring on a sense of dread. That’s because many patients who live with chronic wrist pain notice their symptoms becoming worse as the temperatures drop.
While researchers are still trying to understand the correlation between cold weather and worsening carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, our Orthopedic specialists, Dr. Matthew Bernstein, Dr. Brett Schiffman, and Dr. Mark Yaffe at will explore the potential causes and let their patients know what they can do to alleviate pain this winter.
Cold Weather Restricts Blood Flow
Your body is prepared with a number of instinctive, natural responses to cold, designed to help you survive and maintain a liveable body temperature even as the temperature around you drops. When your body is cold, your blood vessels become more narrow, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood and raising your blood pressure. It’s possible that when the blood flow in your hands and wrists decreases, it can worsen symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
Barometric Pressure May Be a Factor
Another possible reason why symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may become worse during the cold weather months has less to do with temperature and more to do with another unit of measure: barometric pressure. When the weather turns cold, the air pressure around you may increase, causing your muscle tissues to expand in response. When these tissues expand in your wrist, it may put pressure on your wrist’s median nerve, aggravating symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
You Can Prevent Worsening Symptoms
Regardless of the potential reasons why cold temperatures might affect the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, the fact remains that you’re in pain. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to alleviate that pain, both in the short term and in the long term:
- Stretch your hands, fingers, and wrists to promote circulation
- Wear gloves and mittens to keep your hands warm
- Try wearing a wrist brace to stabilize the area and prevent irritation
Receive Treatment Sooner Than Later
Ultimately, if you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s important to see an orthopedic hand and wrist specialist. Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment can often be successful without a need for surgery, with a focus on braces and occupational therapy. If surgery is recommended, your orthopedic specialist can help you determine the appropriate minimally-invasive procedure for you.
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