RubmdPhysical HealthHow Does Altitude Affect Spinal and Joint Health? 

How Does Altitude Affect Spinal and Joint Health? 

If you have trouble with your spine and joint health, you might be wondering if you can climb or exercise at higher altitudes. At over a mile above sea level, residents of Colorado do it all the time. With the help of Denver chiropractors, adjusting exercise routines to meet the demands of high altitude is not impossible. Exercising and getting active is an important part of life. But it’s also important to take account of your environment to make sure that you are caring for your spine and joints in the best way possible- whether you already have pain or not. 

There are many different ways that altitude affects the health of your joints and how you can exercise. This guide will cover the effects and how to deal with them. 

What is Altitude and Why Does It Matter For Sports? 

As altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases. This affects the way you can exercise and perform. At higher altitudes, there will be more pressure on the tissues in the body. As the tissues expand, this also creates more pressure on your joints. 

This means if you are constantly exercising at higher altitudes, you will find that your joints swell and you will experience more pain. 

Keep in mind that you do not have to be active at higher altitudes to feel the effects on your spines and joints. Have you ever been on a plane and noticed that your feet and knees start to swell if you have been on the plane for a long time? 

This is also because of the drop in atmospheric pressure. It makes all the tissues in your body expand which makes it easy for the joints to swell. After the plane has landed, you will start to notice that your joints gradually stop swelling and go back to their original size. 

High Altitudes and Physical Performance 

There is always some risk that comes with exercising at higher altitudes. Even people that are very fit might not respond well to high altitudes. This is why it’s important for athletes and anyone wanting to be at higher altitudes to make sure they altitude train. 

Altitude training allows your body to slowly adjust to changing altitudes so that you experience fewer side effects as well as less spine and joint pain. 

When at higher altitudes, acute hypoxia can happen which is when there are low levels of oxygen in the body’s tissues. This also causes the tissues to swell which puts a lot of pressure on the spine and joints. 

Athletes that regularly exercise at higher altitudes find that they have more severe joint pain after exercising. This pain can last for a long time or the pain can be off and on. The pain tends to be severe as the person gets older as they can develop arthritis around the spine and joints. 

Weather and Joint Pain 

You might have heard someone say that it’s going to rain soon because they have started having pain in their joints. While this used to just be believed to be a saying, there is some truth behind it because weather and altitude have been shown to cause joint pain. 

Weather also changes the air pressure just like altitude which means your pain might worsen when it’s cold and damp outside. Keep in mind though that it’s not the actual cold or wetness that is causing the pain, it’s the change in air pressure also known as barometric pressure. 

Barometric pressure almost always has a sharp drop when there is bad weather coming. The quick change in air pressure causes all the tissues in the body to expand. Expanded tissues can put pain in your joints. If you already have joint issues or you have arthritis, expanded tissues can greatly affect the way your joints feel. 

Those with chronic pain often feel worse spine and joint pain as a result of weather changes because they usually also have nerve damage which can cause injury, adhesions, scarring, and inflammation in the joints. 

Just like when the weather gets colder, there is less barometric pressure at high altitudes and the body tissues expand. 

How to Address Joint and Spine Pain at Higher Altitudes 

If you want to continue altitude training or you plan to spend a lot of time at high altitudes or on planes, there are some measures you can take to reduce the pain in your joints and spine. This can also make your health better in your joints. 

  • Stay Warm. Try to wear layers and stay warm when at high altitudes. Make sure you also sleep under a thick blanket and or an electric blanket to reduce the stiffness in the joints. If you are driving at a high altitude, make sure to also allow the car to warm up. 
  • Avoid Swelling. Swelling makes the pain worse. Try to reduce swelling whenever possible by wearing Spandex gloves or compression socks or braces depending on where you tend to have the most joint pain. 
  • Keep moving. Even if you are on a plane, try to get up and move around when possible. You can also do some light stretching to ensure the muscles and ligaments remain limber rather than getting stiff and swollen. 
  • Stay positive. Joint and spine pain can affect our mental health. This is why it’s important to stay positive and realize that you are doing your best to ensure the pain does not take over your life. 
  • Take a joint supplement. Many different supplements can help with joint pain. Most of the time, you need to take it every day for it to be of some help so make sure to set a timer or a reminder so you never forget to take it. When traveling, also make sure to pack some especially if you are going to be on a long plane ride. 

Final Thoughts 

Altitude has a negative effect on the health of our spines and joints because there is lower atmospheric pressure which causes the tissues to expand and put pressure on the joints. Luckily, there are some health measures you can take to reduce the pain and pressure so you can continue exercising or traveling to high altitudes. 

Popular Doctors

Related Articles