Back pain can interfere, annoy and ultimately happen anywhere, to anyone at any given point. This could be due to multiple things such as an injury, a condition, poor posture, lifestyle or even simply pains. A common cause that supposedly exacerbates or even causes this back pain is commonly thought to be linked to cold weather. Individuals that currently suffer from pain in their lumbar area often state the conditions worsen in colder winter months. Men and women who do not experience year-round back pain express concerns as soon as it begins getting colder outside. So, what is it about the cold that inflicts this chronic back pain specifically?
DOES COLD WEATHER CAUSE BODY ACHES?
As of now, there is no conclusive evidence that can fully support the correlation of cold weather and back sprains, body aches or injuries. Although there are studies that suggest cold temperatures can cause ligaments, tendons, and muscles throughout the body (especially paraspinal muscles) to restrict and tighten up. This restriction inhibits normal movements and can also provoke painful inflammation that results in lumbar aches and pains. Cold weather conditions normally lead to an uptick in back, neck and joint pain reporting from employees. It’s common for both healthy and sick individuals to seek out medical attention, or advice, because of this sudden onset of pain or discomfort. Physicians report this to be the second most common reason for visits in the winter months next to cold and flu season.
WHY IS IT WORSE IN THE WINTER?
Putting cold temperatures, tendons, and ligaments to the side for now, what other similarities can we draw conclusions to between the weather, back pain, or injuries? The short and sweet answer is, none. If the issue at hand is simply muscle pain, your most likely culprit is going to be the cold. With that said, if an individual suffers from nerve or bone pain, the cold weather shouldn’t have an effect on their condition either way. Finally, the topic of barometric pressure comes up in conversations while discussing joint and back pains during colder temperatures. There is no conclusive evidence to support changes in atmospheric pressure that are directly correlated to these symptoms at this time. Although I can clearly remember my grandmother rubbing her hip and knees stating, “it’s going to rain,” as a child. Even from an early age this always seemed to be the most direct and simplistic answer we commonly heard.
Treat your body well and do not ignore the physical signs of extended periods outside.
Here are a few likely suspects that could potentially increase, worsen, or add to back pain during the winter months:
- Seasonal depression — with less sunlight hours each day, individuals find difficulty in their energy, exercise or regular seasonal activities that normally keep you active and healthy. Therefore, the body is more susceptible to aches, pains, and strains from a lack of movement or activity.
- Illness — colds, the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia can all be direct causes of body aches from extended amounts of time in sedentary positions or from the illness itself.
- New Injuries — injuries sustained while performing strenuous winter activities such as snow and ice removal, salting, slips, trips, falls, or leisure winter fun.
WHAT HELPS IN COLD WEATHER?
It is recommended by healthcare professionals across the board, to avoid back pain during the winter months, to follow these simple actions. These are just examples of many recommendations, with a multitude of viable options. Please talk with your healthcare provider or employer for their best recommendations regarding your health and safety.
- If you must be outside, keep yourself bundled up and warm (dressing in layers is recommended). The warmer you can keep your body (core temperature), the less likely you’ll sustain a painful muscle, ligament or tendon sprain, strain, tightening, etc.
- Regular stretching or exercise is something any healthcare professional will recommend regardless of back pain. Staying limber and training your muscles will help you to stay loose and strong. Remember “motion is lotion.” Always inquire about stretching stations, group stretching or team huddles before or during work hours if there are current concerns.
- Try to avoid over-exerting yourself during outdoor activities such as shoveling snow or ice removal on sidewalks and driveways. This could also include fun activities like sledding and snowball fights. These activities along with many others can result in injuries if you do not pace yourself and listen to your body.
In conclusion, your best defense against pain, strains and pain management during the cold winter months is to keep yourself active, warm and limber. Treat your body well and do not ignore the physical signs of extended periods outside. If you are working out in the cold try to limit your risks for inflammation and if you feel numbness, tingling or excessive back pain seek help or medical attention.