Why is winter more painful?
October 25, 2007 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Why is a blow to the body more painful when it is cold outside?

If you hit your thumb with a hammer, or slam your fingers in a door it is always more painful if your skin is cold. What is the mechanism involved with this? If prostaglandin is released to the nerves differently, why?

I just saw JD Drew hit in the ankle by a pitch, and it's a little chilly in Boston. Ouch.
posted by kuujjuarapik to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How serendipitous. I saw the same thing, searched and found this just a few minutes ago.

Sounds plausible to me.
posted by aerotive at 6:44 PM on October 25, 2007

nah, i bet it's physics more than biology. when you're cold, your tissues contract and your nerve endings move closer together. therefore, when you hit yourself with a hammer, you're actually hitting more nerve endings than you would if your hand was warm.

i am not a physicist, chemist, or doctor, by the way. just a complete and utter nerd.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:50 PM on October 25, 2007

thinkingwoman: what? Skin contracting is almost certainly negligible unless you're... dead.
posted by phrontist at 7:02 PM on October 25, 2007

posted by phrontist at 7:02 PM on October 25, 2007

no, cold can make your tissues contract pretty significantly--that's why you ice an injury, to bring swelling down.

when you're cold, your body naturally regulates its temperature by keeping blood and other warm fluids closer to your core (which is why your hands and feet get white). conversely, if you are really hot, you may notice that your watch and rings fit more tightly, and that your socks leave marks on your ankles. that's because the fluids are flowing away from your core toward your extremities.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:11 PM on October 25, 2007

Because when it's cold outside your extemities are less warm because there is less blood flow. The body is working to keep your organs warm. Decreased blood flow causes pain.

The muscles want to know where their oxygenated blood is. Lack of oxygenated blood causes pain. Example:

blocked coronary arteries = less blood flow to hear muscle = angina.

It's the same idea.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:16 PM on October 25, 2007

heart muscle
posted by LoriFLA at 7:17 PM on October 25, 2007

and that would be extremities. Holy hell.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:19 PM on October 25, 2007

How serendipitous. I saw the same thing, searched and found this just a few minutes ago

Must be some sort of virus. I hit my hand this afternoon (coldest day of the fall so far) and wondered the same thing at the time.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:53 PM on October 25, 2007

I don't know for sure, but I always thought it was about sensitisation. Your nerves do feel the cold (they have specialised detection systems for it), and they do react to it. I think that puts them closer to the pain threshold. I mean, if it gets cold enough, you don't need to hit your fingers for them to feel pain. The low temperature alone will do the job.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:09 AM on October 26, 2007

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