Cold Weather Muscle Injuries

Exercising in cold weather comes with its own challenges. One of them involves preventing muscle injury. Here are six tips for preventing cold weather muscle injuries to help you avoid a strain.

#1. Perform an Adequate Warm-Up

Cold weather can restrict the amount of blood flow going to your muscles, In turn, a lack of blood flow makes your muscles highly susceptible to injury. As such, it is important not to skip your warm-up. In fact, you may need a little longer warm-up just to be sure that your muscles have had time to heat up. Perform at least three to five minutes of light activity and stretches, gradually increasing your intensity level until you are ready to exercise at full capacity.

#2. Dress in Warm Layers

Once you have gotten your muscles warm, you will need to keep them that way. The best method is by dressing in plenty of warm layers so that you can add or remove clothing as needed. Always wear a hat to help your body retain heat, and gloves to keep your fingertips from becoming frostbitten. Don’t forget an extra pair of socks so your toes can remain nice and warm as well.

#3. Decrease your Intensity

Cold weather can make your muscles feel stiff and sore. Tight muscles are also more prone to tears or other damage. To prevent cold-weather injuries, you may need to decrease the intensity of your workout. Go for shorter runs, and lighten the amount of weight you lift. Rather than exercising for an hour, think about shortening your sessions to a half-hour or 45 minutes instead.

#4. Remain well Hydrated

Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water. By the time you become thirsty, your body is already showing signs of dehydration. As a result of low fluids, your muscles may become dry and less pliable, leaving them more susceptible to injury. Drinking water is just as important in winter as it is in summer, so ensure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.

#5. Incorporate a Cool-Down Stretch

After exercising outdoors in the cold, many people are in a hurry to get back inside. Don’t rush indoors so quickly that you forget to perform a cool down. Lightly stretching your muscles after a workout keeps the blood flowing and reduces lactic acid buildup. Accordingly, you are less likely to experience muscle soreness. A cool-down also allows your heart rate to gradually return to normal, thereby reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

#6. Don’t Force Certain Exercises

Certain muscles of your body such as the triceps are actually made up of multiple muscles. It’s not uncommon for one muscle in a group to become stiff in cold weather, making it difficult for you to perform certain movements. Listen to your body and not force yourself to do any exercises that your body appears to be refusing to do.

In winter, you may also notice signs of a torn muscle such as weakness, swelling, or pain. If so, you should stop exercising immediately and attend to your injury. Use a heating pad to warm the muscle and then provide adequate rest. Once your symptoms are no longer present, begin using the affected muscle gradually to prevent re-injury.

Help is Available for Cold Weather Injuries

Home treatment may not resolve all cold-weather muscle injuries. If you experience an injury that does not improve with self-treatment, allow us to help. One of our licensed physical therapists can help you increase your range of motion, improve strength, and reduce the likelihood of future suffering. To find out more, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy at 570-208-2787, or email our owner Frank Cawley directly at