Have you ever heard someone say they can predict a storm coming when their back or joints start to ache? While the science behind this particular claim is still out to the jury, when the weather outside is frightful, your back could actually be at a higher risk for injury.
But you needn’t fret! Winter months don’t have to spell doom for your back. Just educating yourself on this season’s correlation to your back and spine health is a huge step in the right direction.
Why Winter Months May Make You Susceptible To Injury
Many people struggle to stay completely healthy over the winter months. From the spread of sickness to the strain of the holidays, your body goes through a lot. Add in the weather and temperature change, and the seasonal challenges compound.
While the coming of winter doesn’t necessarily spell doom to your back health, there are definitely some hurdles that can arise because of the change in season. Our bodies, in general, regulate to the areas that we choose to live, so when a dip in temperature occurs, we feel it – whether it’s a particularly cold Southern California winter, or a full-on, East Coast blizzard. When you’re cold, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments all tighten a bit more. In fact, with cold temperatures, our bodies even go through a process called “vasoconstriction,” where blood vessels in your extremities constrict, so as to pump more blood to your vital organs. It’s one of our body’s amazing self-preservation mechanisms. But, this diversion of blood can make your spine, and thus your back, more stiff as well.
While this isn’t usually an issue for a day or two, if you’re experiencing this week after week, it can make you both less flexible, and more prone to injury. Not to mention, if you live in a climate that gets snow and ice (read: shoveling sidewalks and driveways is a part of your life during these months), your body is being flexed and challenged in different ways than it is during the summer months. Bottom line: you need to take even more precautions.
Common Sources of Back Pain During Winter
These winter pains are not all that uncommon – perhaps you’ve experienced some of these common cold-season ailments:
Strains happen when the muscles or ligaments in the back are twisted, pulled, or even torn a small amount. And, a simple back strain can easily happen when an area of the body hasn’t been properly warmed up before activity. Though this may seem incredibly straightforward, colder months greatly increase your risks since the muscles and ligaments surrounding your spine may be naturally tighter.
Disc injuries can also be the cause of back pain during winter. The vertebrae that stack to make up our spine all have small pads between them, called “discs.” They serve as little shock absorbers to help protect our spine during day-to-day and dynamic movement. These discs are made up of a tougher outer cartilage ring and a softer, gel-like center.
When a disc herniates, the soft-center portion is pushed through the outer cartilage edge. A herniated disc can happen from sudden, twisting movements, similar to the movements you make while shoveling snow. On top of that – you’re more susceptible to this injury when the muscles and ligaments surrounding the spine are stiff and cold.
Fewer daylight hours, cooler temperatures…when these combine, it generally makes the motivation a bit tougher to get outside and get active. No matter the conditions, for many, the colder temperatures can be discouraging for activity. However, a decrease in activity can actually make your back feel worse. Inactivity can wreak havoc on mobility and the general upkeep that keeps your back and spine feeling good.
At-Home Care For Your Back During Winter
The good news is that if you’re aware of the higher risk for injury during these months, there are simple ways that you can be proactive about your back and overall health. Stay a step ahead of injury with some of these at-home conservative care options.
One of the key reasons why your injury rate could be at risk during these colder months is the loss of flexibility and mobility in your back. Stay on top of movement by taking 10-15 minutes to follow an online yoga tutorial from the comfort of your own home. There are plenty of options out there, so do a little research and carve out the time to get it in.
Stay Active Outdoors!
If you do live in a snowy area, invest in the right outdoor gear— your comfort level plays a huge factor in your activity enjoyment. Most importantly, if you’re partaking in outdoor activities in the colder weather, be sure to plan for a longer warm-up. This can help loosen up your entire body and cut down on your injury risk.
Still not excited about outdoor activity in the cold? We don’t blame you. Instead, try to find indoor activities that suit you. Look into group exercise classes, gyms, indoor pools…there are many options for working up a sweat on while remaining indoors.
How Can Chiropractic Support Back And Spine Health?
Chiropractic care, in general, is a great way to stay on top of overall health and wellness when incorporated as a part of a consistent plan. During times of increased susceptibility to injury (ahem…winter!) this care can become even more helpful in maintaining good health. The gentle chiropractic adjustments of the spine, neck, and extremities help to realign your body and provide relief to your entire system. These adjustments also serve to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body and immune system to communicate and function better.
Your practitioner can address different areas of stress in your body, and help to treat the root cause of any lingering aches and pains that may have seasonally cropped up. They can also help guide you through some at-home exercises that may be best for your situation. Regardless, by working consistent chiropractic care into your routine, you’re providing a great service to your body.
Winter needn’t be a pain in your back. Prioritize your health. Take care of your body. Schedule your appointment online or call (423) 380-1155.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.