The colder months of the year have their charm. However, cols weather can also mean pain for people who struggle with consistent inflammation or spinal problems.
Sound like you? Have you ever felt that old twinge or stiffness after you spent time outdoor in the cold?
So why is it that so many people feel their back aching in the cold weather what can we do to keep the back from hurting during the fall and winter.
DOES COLD WEATHER CAUSE BACK PAIN?
In short, cold weather can cause back pain because it causes the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine to tighten. This can put strain on your spine and pull on the sensitive nerve roots exiting the spine, causing pain.
Additionally, if joints are already inflamed, a drop in barometric pressure or temperature can cause swelling and pain.
This could be the case for several reasons:
COLD WEATHER AND TIGHT STRUCTURES
Have you ever stepped outside on a chilly morning and felt your body stiffen? When faced with low temperatures, the blood vessels in your extremities narrow to divert that extra blood to vital areas like the brain, heart, lungs and bowels to keep them warm.
Consequently there is less blood flow to the structures supporting your spine and they become naturally stiff which, in turn, places extra strain on the back.
If these tissues are stiff and pull on the sensitive nerve endings in the spine—which is common—it can feel like your back is hurting despite the fact that the source of the pain is not the spinal structure.
Also tight or cold muscles, tendons or ligaments are much more susceptible to strain or injury. Shivering even if it is subtle or undetected can increase the stiffness.
It’s important to note that the majority of spine pain is caused, not by a problem with the spine itself, but by strain or injury to the muscles, tendons and ligaments that give it support.
On top of this, tight or cold muscles, tendons or ligaments are much more susceptible to strain or injury.
This means that you’re more prone to back pain in colder weather simply because of your body’s natural response to it.
SAD CAN AGGRAVATE BACK PAIN
As described in a previous blog cold weather and dark days can contribute to what is known as seasonal depression which can cause or aggravate back pain.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that typically occurs yearly, starting in the fall and lasting through the winter months.
Seasonal depression can also cause fatigue, increased perception of pain and decreased interest levels in daily activities which can prevent people from exercising and strengthening the muscles that support the spine, which can cause back pain.
COLD WEATHER AND LESS EXERCISE
Daily low-impact exercises like walking, swimming or biking are some of the best ways to ward off back pain. However, in the cold months it might be difficult or even inappropriate to venture outdoor on a consistent basis. Taking a break from your exercise routine waiting for the weather to warm up again though is one of the worst things you can do if you struggle with back pain.
Muscles need continued exercise in order to remain strong and if you are neglecting to work out when it’s chilly, you are opening yourself up to injury.
If your back isn’t strong enough to handle activities like raking leaves or shovelling snow, it’s likely that you’re going to experience back pain.
DOES COLD WEATHER CAUSE PAIN BY METAL IMPLANTS?
People who have undergone a spinal fusion or had metal implants placed in their spine commonly complain of pain during the colder months of the year. This occurs because metal loses heat more quickly than natural tissue and, if it does, the nerves surrounding the device can get cold as a result and cause pain.
While most interbody devices are not supposed to conduct heat or get cold, the simple fact of the matter is that these items are not made of living tissue and therefore react differently to changing temperatures.
These implants have no method of regulating their temperature, like most of the natural structures in our body, and are dependent solely on outside forces.
If you allow the metal to get cold, it can be difficult to warm it back up again and it will likely start lowering the temperature of the tissue and nerves surrounding it which can cause anything from mild to severe back pain.
It’s important to note that the location of the metal interbody device certainly plays a role in whether or not you feel it significantly during the colder months of the year.
People whose device is simply covered by skin or a thin layer of soft tissue are much more likely to experience aching and pain when they allow it to get cold.
Nevertheless, anyone with a metal interbody devices should take extra steps during the fall and winter to make sure they keep the location of the implants warm.
HOW TO AVOID BACK PAIN DURING COLD WEATHER
Obviously make every effort to keep yourself warm at all times, but especially when you’re outdoors. Wear extra layers and be sure to keep your back and neck covered by tucking in your shirt and/or wearing a scarf.
Additionally, consider purchasing a pair of winter boots.
Traumatic falls are one of the easiest ways to usher in a serious, painful spinal condition like a herniated disc or fractured vertebrae. A good pair of boots will help prevent you from falling on icy or wet surfaces while you’re out and about during the colder months of the year.
Finally, don’t neglect exercise.
If you struggle with seasonal depression or simply want to ward off back pain when the temperature drops, you need to be working out your body consistently. While it may be difficult to continue doing the activities you once enjoyed during the summer months, you can still enjoy the benefits of low-impact, inflammation-fighting exercise while not exposing yourself to the bitter elements.
Some great winter exercises are:
Swimming remains one of the best forms of low-impact exercises for your back. Water provides buoyancy, which helps support your spine and take stress off your joints while providing a weight-free environment to strengthen many of the back muscles that support the spine.
The great thing about walking is that it can be done virtually any time of the year. Walking helps strengthen the muscles in the legs, feet and back that are responsible for supporting the spine, plus it helps drive blood flow to the areas of your back that might be prone to inflammation.
However, if you decide to walk consistently throughout the cold months, make sure that you stay warm.
Indoor aerobic exercises like yogahttps://rebalanceyoga.co.uk/ and Pilates can be great for your spinal health. However, these exercises can also aggravate your spinal symptoms depending on your condition, so speak to your physiotherapist before enrolling in a class.
A regular massage with Hot Stones or Aromatherapy using warming oils can help you relaxing tight aching muscles.
In the end, the best way for you stay pain-free during the cold months of the year is to make sure that you bundle up, avoid unnecessary strain on your spine and find new ways to continue exercising and keep your muscles supple with a massage.