The colder months of the year bring many exciting things: the holidays, cold weather sports, snow, and an escape from the heat. They can, however, also mean pain for people who struggle with back pain or other spinal problems.
If you’ve spent time outdoors when the temperature is low and felt an unpleasant twinge in your back, your body may not be a big fan of cold weather either.
Is There a Correlation Between Back Pain and the Weather?
There has been some debate in the scientific community as to whether the cold weather causes or worsens back pain. There isn’t much scientific evidence supporting the correlation between chronic pain and weather changes, but some studies do suggest slight associations.
For example, a 2012 study in Sweden examined 135,754 male construction workers to see the effects of working in the cold for several hours a day. The results of the study revealed that the prevalence of lower back pain was higher for construction workers who worked in decreased outdoor temperatures.
Another study from Finland reported that exposure to cold increases musculoskeletal pains.
The Cold & Back Pain: Why It Happens
When faced with low temperatures, your body experiences vasoconstriction — the process of narrowing the blood vessels and diverting that extra blood to the heart, brain, bowels, and lungs to keep them warm. Since the muscles, ligaments, and tendons get insufficient blood, they stiffen as a response.
You’ve probably experienced this sensation when you’re trying to type or text after your fingers were cold.
The same applies to the structures surrounding your spine. When the temperatures dip, less blood flows to these structures, causing them to stiffen. As a result, you experience an extra strain on your back.
Daily, low-impact exercises like walking, biking, and swimming are some of the best ways to manage chronic back pain. In the winter months, however, it can be too cold to venture outside or ride a bike regularly. Because of this, some people choose to take a break from exercise and keep warm inside.
Managing Back Pain During Cold Weather
Ward off back pain by keeping warm. Wear warm clothing and dress in layers. Also, tuck your shirt into your pants to keep cold draft from reaching it. At night, bundle up in blankets to protect yourself from the cold.
Apart from staying warm, there are other ways to keep weather-related pain at bay:
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
Reduce your consumption of inflammation-inducing foods such as refined sugar, fried food, processed starches, and red meat. Restitute Health recommends complementing your diet with nutritional supplements that improve your spine’s functionality and overall performance.
- Try to Keep Active
Resting during the cold weather is tempting, but your back will appreciate your efforts at being active. Instead of doing outdoor exercises, stick with low-impact indoor activities like yoga and Pilates.
Don’t let the cold winter air worsen your chronic back pain. Instead, enjoy the cool air by keeping your back warm with a sweater, a hot drink, and plenty of blankets.