What Could Shoulder Pain in Cold Weather Mean?
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Shoulder Pain in Cold Weather: What Could it Mean?

Shoulder Pain in Cold Weather: What Could it Mean?

Shoulder Pain in Cold Weather

Do you feel pain shooting in your shoulders when winter’s around the corner? If so, you’re not alone. Shoulder pain during cold weather is a common complaint among those who work outside or are exposed to chilly winds and temperatures. But what could this mean?

There are countless reasons why your shoulder aches during cold weather. Whether due to cold hypersensitivity, decreased air pressure, or other clinical reasons, dealing with a hurting shoulder during winter can be extremely uncomfortable and annoying.

To understand why shoulder pain is so common in cold weather, it’s vital to know the underlying causes and how they affect your shoulder joint. This blog post will help you understand your condition and give tips and quick fixes to relieve your shoulder pain.

Are You Experiencing Shoulder Pain in the Cold Weather?

Neck and shoulder pain in cold weather is a shared phenomenon among many people worldwide. A published study in the European Journal of Pain in 2014 revealed that around 1,892 adult respondents experienced cold-related musculoskeletal pain. Most participants experience pain symptoms at about -23°C or -19.4°F.

Additionally, working in a cold environment for long periods increases your risk of developing severe musculoskeletal pain in the future. According to a separate study published in PubMed in 2022, workers who have worked more than 25 percent of the time in a cold climate develop an increased risk of musculoskeletal pain after seven to eight years.

Hundreds of studies like these focus on understanding the effects of cold weather and shoulder pain. Although not all reasons are uncovered, the research behind this phenomenon is well-defined. With this knowledge, you can learn how to protect your shoulder joint from the cold and prevent pain.

Why Does This Happen?

Many reasons can cause chronic pain around the neck and shoulders, such as:

  • Decreased barometric pressure: When cold weather sets in, the barometric pressure drops. This means that oxygen and other gasses become less dense, resulting in reduced lung function and a pounding sensation at the shoulder. Everyone does not always feel this, but those who can experience shoulder pain.
  • Thickening of synovial fluids: Synovial fluid is a viscous, slippery liquid that fills our joints and helps them move freely. In cold weather, the synovial fluid thickens, slowing down the joint’s range of motion. This increases the risk of chronic shoulder pain due to reduced mobility.

As you can see, shoulder muscles hurt during chilly seasons for several reasons. Sometimes, it’s not even the muscle that’s hurting but the nerves or other parts around your shoulder area.

What Could This Mean?

As established, there are many reasons your shoulder hurts in cold weather, which could lead to various diagnoses. In the following sections, we’ll expound on the different indications of this condition.

Hypersensitivity to Cold Weather

Some people are more sensitive to cold weather than others. They may feel a slight shoulder muscle constriction or shoulder stiffness when exposed to the cold, even if there is just a light breeze.

This can be attributed to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and leads to chronic joint pain.

Flare-ups are also commonly observed among RA patients. These short-term relapses are usually triggered by changes in temperature and other environmental factors, such as humidity.

Sensitivity to Lower Air Pressure

As mentioned, barometric pressure drops when cold weather sets in. Shoulder pain during atmospheric changes is due to nerve compression and expansion of soft tissues.

This happens due to the air pressure pushing against your shoulder joint leading to pain.

Lack of Physical Activity

For some people, cold weather is associated with snuggling in bed and enjoying a hearty cup of hot chocolate. Although this is a great way to stay warm and cozy, it can also lead to shoulder pain in the long run because of the lack of physical activity.

Physical activity helps our bodies stay active and flexible even during winter. But when we reduce or eliminate movement for an extended period, our shoulder muscles can become weak and stiff, resulting in chronic shoulder pain, longer neck pain, and overall muscle stiffness.

Signs of Aging

As we grow old, our body’s ability to produce and maintain synovial fluid decreases. This makes the shoulder joint less flexible, leading to a reduced range of motion and pain in the neck and shoulders.

Also, older people are more sensitive to the cold, making them more prone to shoulder pain in cold weather.

Increased Stress

Believe it or not, heightened stress levels could also lead to shoulder pain during cold weather. In times of stress, our muscles tense and fail to relax, resulting in aching shoulders or neck pain. This pain is further aggravated in colder temperatures.

Additionally, overworked adults tend to develop bad posture, which could indirectly cause shoulder pain due to its long-term effect on your body.

How to Reduce Shoulder Pain in Cold Weather

If you’re constantly experiencing shoulder pain during chilly seasons, here are some tips to help you reduce the discomfort.

Take a Warm or Hot Shower

One of the most obvious ways to beat shoulder pain during cold weather is to take a hot or warm shower. The heat increases your body’s temperature and helps relax the muscles, reducing tension and discomfort in the shoulder area.

If you have access to a sauna or steam bath, you can enjoy yourself there to relax your shoulder muscles.

Use a Heat Compress

You can also use a heat compress to maintain the ideal body core temperature. This is ideal for targeting specific muscle groups and relieving discomfort around that particular area.


A lack of physical activity can lead to shoulder stiffness, so exercise is vital even when it’s cold outside. Doing low-intensity workouts or a few minutes of cardio exercises helps increase blood flow and overall flexibility, reducing the risk of chronic pain.

Regular exercise ensures that your body has adequate blood flow to keep your shoulder muscles warm and healthy. You can also commit to an entire session of weight training followed by a warm shower to keep your body temperature up.

Wear Warmer Clothes

It’s crucial to ensure that your body is sufficiently covered with the right material during cold weather. Invest in thicker clothes, such as insulated jackets, woolen sweaters, or thermal tops, and don’t forget to wear a scarf or balaclava for extra warmth.

You can also layer up your clothing if you’re extremely sensitive to cold. It’s also worth investing in self-heating blankets, gloves, and socks to keep your body warm during winter.

Do Some Light Stretches

If you can’t commit to a full workout during cold weather, you can do light stretching exercises or yoga sessions to reduce physical discomfort and pain. This will help your body stay flexible and ready for physical activities without putting too much strain on the muscles.

Simple stretching exercises, such as lifting your arms and bending your body side to side while holding your shoulders tightly, are enough to keep your heart rate up and improve body temperature.

Contact Academy Orthopedics for More Information

Cold weather should be enjoyed with a piping cup of hot chocolate, cozy sweatpants, and warm blankets, not spent dealing with persistent shoulder pains. With the tips and tricks we provided above, you should be able to manage your shoulder pain during wintertime easily.

However, this is not always the case for some people. If your shoulders still hurt during cold weather after trying all the tips mentioned above, it’s best to contact a professional orthopedic doctor for more advice.

Academy Orthopedics has some of the most knowledgeable and skillful doctors in town who can assist you with any shoulder-related issues. Our team of proficient doctors can help you identify the underlying clinical cause of your cold-related shoulder pain and treat it efficiently.

With our team’s expertise and state-of-the-art technology, you can enjoy wintertime without worrying about shoulder pain. Contact us today at Academy Orthopedics and let us provide you with the best treatment plans to keep your shoulder healthy no matter the season!