Winter is here! The snow is beginning to fall, giving us a break from the summer heat. The holidays are approaching. And in general, most of us are caught up in the holiday spirit. However, these colder months also mean pain for people who struggle with consistent inflammation or other spinal problems. Maybe you’re someone who feels a constant twinge in your back when temperatures are low. But is there evidence to support that cold weather cause back pain?
Cold Weather Tightens Spinal Support
Have you ever stepped outside into the chilly morning air and feel your body immediately stiffen? This involuntary reaction is completely normal. And maybe an insight as to why your back may hurt on a cold winter day.
Vasoconstriction is the process of narrowing blood vessels in your extremities. This is done so that any extra blood can be diverted to more vital areas such as your brain, heart, and lungs. When the temperature drops, the body begins this process as a means to protect (and keep warm) your most vital organs. And while vasoconstriction is a preemptive measure, it means that your muscles, tendons, and ligaments have less blood. And as a result, become stiff.
The same is true of your spinal support structures. With less blood flow, the structures supporting the spine become stiff. This, in turn, places extra tension and strain on the back. This is important because this means this isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the spine itself. However, when these muscles, tendons, and ligaments are cold and tight, that means they are that much more susceptible to injury.
The Links to Depression and Lack of Exercise
For some, the winter season also brings on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. SAD is a type of depression that occurs yearly and usually last throughout the winter months. Causes include disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm and drops in both serotonin and melatonin levels. It also causes fatigue, an increased perception of pain, and a decrease in interest levels and motivation. This can often prevent people from keeping up with their exercise routine. One result of this is back pain, as sufferers are no longer strengthening their back.
Some studies have also suggested that depression can cause increased levels of inflammation through proteins known as cytokines. Cytokines serve as cell-signaling molecules and stimulate the movement of healing cells toward sites of infection and inflammation. However, excessive amounts of inflammatory cytokines can lead to inflammatory diseases, which is one of the most common causes of back pain, and depression.
How to Avoid Back Pain
While you won’t be able to entirely prevent your back pain from cold weather, there are some steps you can take! The first and the best thing you can do is to make every effort to keep yourself warm when outdoors. Wear extra layers if needed. And make sure to wear thick warm socks and gloves. Pay extra attention to keep your back, neck, and head warm as well. Consider purchasing a pair of winter boots with good tread and traction. This will help to keep you upright when the ground gets slippery!
Don’t Forget to Exercise
We know the days are shorter. And there are times you come home from work and exercising is the last thing on your mind. While it may be difficult to partake in the activities you enjoyed during summer, there are still a number of benefits you can get from low-impact, inflammation-fighting exercises! And the best part is, you don’t have to do these outside!
Swimming remains one of the best forms of low-impact exercises for your back. Water provides buoyancy and a zero-gravity feel. This helps support your spine and take stress off your joints, all while providing a weight-free environment. This will help to strengthen many of the back muscles that support the spine.
We know you can’t just jump into your local pool as you did during the summer. But there are likely some indoor, heated options around you. You may have to buy a membership to a local recreation center or gym that has a pool, but if you’re using it consistently, the membership fee will pay for itself in the benefits it provides you.
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. Especially the ones that are responsible for supporting the spine. Not to mention, it helps drive blood flow to the areas of your back that might be prone to inflammation.
However, if you decide to walk consistently in the cold throughout the fall and winter months, make sure that you bundle up on the cold days!
Indoor Aerobic Exercises
Any kind of aerobic exercise is generally good for the body. Especially ones like yoga, which is great for your spinal health. However, remember that the more intense kinds (like HIIT and kickboxing classes) can also aggravate your back too. Make sure to talk to a doctor before enrolling in a new class.
Let Zock Family Chiropractic Help!
As chiropractic care becomes more and more popular, why not try this preventive measure out for yourself? Chiropractic care is focused on allowing our spine and nerves to work to their potential. This results in not only allowing our organs to function but for them to function to their best ability. Furthermore, along with helping the optimal functioning of our organs, realigning of the spine may also help with increasing our immune system effectiveness and our hormone functions. Contact us today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your pains and needs as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice!