Winter is just around the corner so should we be braced for more back pain as well as defrosting the car?
One fact that we know for certain is that when you’re cold, tendons, ligaments and muscles all over your body tense up and become tight. This is very true of your back, it becomes far less flexible and tighter which can increase the risk of an injury and injury can most definitely lead to back pain.
Arthritis is also often spoken about as being more painful when it’s cold or damp, this again is potentially attributable to the muscles, tendons and ligaments becoming tighter and less flexible. There have been numerous studies into joint pain and the cold weather. As an osteopath I certainly feel that those of my patients with arthritic, joint or back pain are more likely to have an increased level of symptoms during the cold damp winter months.
A recent study of those that suffer with chronic pain including arthritis reported that "67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure that changes in the weather had an effect on their pain. Most of the patients also reported that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occur," said Robert Jamison, Professor at the Harvard Medical School.
So how can we help prevent the cold weather making us feel those aches and pains more?
Firstly, layer up. This may seem obvious but the more layers you wear the more entrapped your body heat gets which in turn keeps you insulated against the cold. This is particularly important for the parts of the bodies known as the extremities, i.e. your hands and feet, so ensure that you wear gloves/mittens and thicker socks. This will help keep the whole of your body at a more consistent temperature which in turn will lead to a less stiff and contracted muscles.
Secondly, keep active. Dark evenings, rain and cold tends to mean that we almost hibernate and for many of us exercise less. It is very important that we keep our muscles and joints warm by moving, whether this is ensuring that on those cold winter Sundays we do a few more chores, or simply make a conscious effort to get up from the sofa more frequently.
Thirdly heat. An external source of heat can be very helpful at reducing joint pain and tightness especially those aches and pains attributable to arthritis. We recommend ThermoDr heat wraps, which are a wheat bag that you simply put into the microwave for 90 seconds and then wrap around or place over the affected area. The ThermoDr heat wraps come in 4 different options ensuring that the joint or area that hurts can be effectively treated. Each option has an elasticated strap that helps keep the wheat bag in place. The four options are; back and tummy, joint, neck and shoulder wraps.