Our physios have been treating a number of hamstring, gluteal and calf muscle injuries at both our Canning Vale and Winthrop clinics in the last few weeks. The injuries have not been specific to any particular age group or sport with football, rugby, netball, hockey, and martial arts all being represented. The cold weather we have been experiencing recently may be contributing to our physiotherapy caseload – interestingly the local weather station at Jandakot Airport is known to be the coldest part of Perth during winter!
Cold weather can increase the risk of muscle injuries during exercise, but it’s not the cold itself that directly predisposes to injuries. Instead, the increased risk is primarily due to the physiological changes that occur in the body in response to cold temperatures.
Here’s how cold weather can impact muscles and increase risk of injury:
- Muscle stiffness: In colder temperatures, muscles tend to become stiffer and less flexible. This reduced flexibility can make muscles more susceptible to strains and tears, especially if engaging in sudden or vigorous movements without proper warm-up.
- Decreased blood flow: Cold weather causes vasoconstriction, which means blood vessels narrow, leading to reduced blood flow to the muscles. This reduced blood flow can limit the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, making them more prone to injuries during intense physical activity.
- Poor warm-up: People often tend to skip or rush through their warm-up routines in cold weather because they are eager to start exercising or simply because it’s uncomfortable to spend extra time outdoors. A proper warm-up is crucial for preparing muscles for physical activity and reducing the risk of injuries.
- Less hydration: In colder weather, one may not feel as thirsty as one would in hot weather, leading to reduced water intake. Dehydration can impact muscle function and make them more susceptible to injuries!
Our physiotherapists suggest the following to minimize the risk of muscle injuries during exercise in cold weather:
1) Warm-up thoroughly: Spend extra time warming up muscles with dynamic stretches and light aerobic exercises to improve flexibility and increase blood flow.
2) Dress appropriately: Wear layers of clothing to keep muscles warm during exercise. As time, one warms up during physical activity, layers can then be shed to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
3) Stay hydrated: Even if not feeling thirsty, make sure to drink enough water before, during, and after exercise to keep muscles adequately hydrated.
4) Avoid sudden movements: Be mindful of movements, especially if engaging in activities that require quick changes in direction or intensity. Gradually increase the intensity of exercise to allow muscles to adapt.
5) Listen to your body: If feeling any discomfort, pain, or unusual sensations in the muscles, take a break and assess the situation before continuing. Ignoring warning signs can lead to more severe injuries.
If an injury does occur, we have APA titled Sports and Exercise Physiotherapists and General Physiotherapists at Canning Vale and Winthrop who are experienced with treating muscle and joint related injuries. To make an appointment with an experienced physiotherapist, call 94565553 (Canning Vale) or 6388 4433 (Winthrop) or book directly through our website.