Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 5, 2016
December is here, and depending on where you live, you may already be dealing with snow. The drop in temperatures can make outside activities a little colder, but it can also have a significant impact on our bodies. Many of my patients have expressed concerns that their symptoms tend to worsen as the temperatures drop, but is there really a correlation between cooler temperatures and increased spine pain? We explore the topic in today’s blog.
The Cold and Pain
Not everyone will experience an uptick in symptom prevalence or severity when the temperatures drop, but for others it’s like clockwork. Oftentimes this increase in symptom severity is the result of a problem in a joint, which is why we tend to notice increased pain levels in our elbows, knees, spine and neck when temperatures fall.
Studies have tried to pinpoint the cause of this relationship, and while skeptics may argue otherwise, studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between cold weather and arthritis flare ups due to severe swings in barometric pressure. When barometric pressure drops, there is less atmospheric pressure to keep tissues in place and it can lead to more tissue swelling, which can lead to pain. Other research suggests that the cold weather may cause changes in joint fluid thickness, which affects or mobility, and it can shrink tissues that can pull on nerve endings, causing painful flare ups.
Preventing Cold Weather Spine Pain
If you think of your body like a car, you can do a number of things to help prevent spine pain flare ups caused by cold weather. Think about what you do for your car when the weather drops, and then apply that logic to your body:
- You park your car in a garage to protect it from the elements, and you protect your spine from the cold by wearing extra layers during the winter.
- You let your car run for a minute or two before driving off on really cold days. Do the same for your muscles; add a minute or two of stretching exercises to help muscles get mobile before heading outside.
- You don’t let your car sit idly for a week in the snow, and don’t let your body sit idly just because it’s winter. Find time to get to the gym or to run on the treadmill throughout the winter.
- You winterize your car with the proper fluids and additives. Make sure you body is getting a regular intake of healthy foods and liquids, as junk food can increase inflammation flare ups, which can worsen if the cold weather causes tissue contraction.
For more information about keeping spine pain at bay during the winter months, contact Dr. Sinicropi’s office today!