Back pain is a very common reason for someone to seek out medical care. Because the spine is a huge proponent of our support system, back pain (particularly in the lower back) can be debilitating.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to this ailment during the winter.
It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite winter activity- shoveling!
Many don’t take into account the fact that shoveling is not only a chore, but an intense workout. As such, most won’t think to stretch beforehand. Yes, you read that right. One of the biggest favors you can do before heading outside is to warm yourself up. Do some light stretching and possibly some lifting if you have other household chores. This will help loosen the muscles and will lessen the chances for spraining, tearing or pulling.
Take it slow! Shoveling can be exhausting. We promise- that snow won’t go anywhere. You can come back to it later. Lifting with your legs (instead of your back) will help you last much longer in the elements.
Take a look at the equipment and gear you’re using. Use a lightweight shovel with a long handle. Wearing the proper footwear along with gloves and everything else needed to keep you warm will make for better support.
Slipping and Falling
Another common source of back pain comes from injuries- typically the result of a fall. In the winter this is easy to do with all the ice on the ground outside. Some falls only end with bruises, but some can lead to serious spinal injury.
In order to avoid falls and slips, wear the proper footwear. Those heels might look great with your outfit, but it might be wise to only wear those indoors. Pay close attention to where you’re going. Ice isn’t always apparent right away. Lastly, be cautious when walking over snow, as there could be plenty of ice beneath it.
As a general rule, no matter the body part, if you don’t use the muscles they will become less flexible. Once it gets cold outside, people tend to stay indoors more and become less active. In order to remedy this, think of ways to enjoy activities indoors, like joining a gym with a friend.
There are many other things to do in order to stay active, as well. You can invest in videos to use at home that work out your back. You can spend less time watching TV and when you do take a break to watch your favorite show, use the commercial breaks to get up and walk around or stretch. Cutting back on the overeating will help too. The colder months have a lot of holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but overeating will make you lethargic and you won’t want to move.
Cold Weather and Snow
When it gets colder, the barometric pressure drops and the difference can be felt in most people’s joints. The amount of pain will go up in the winter months, but there are things you can do to lessen this effect.
Dressing warm will help your joints. Don’t be afraid to dress in layers- if you enter a heated room, you can always take a layer or two off. Keeping proactively warm will make a noticeable difference! Also, when that isn’t enough heat, try a heating pad to give localized heat to a certain area. This will relax the muscles and can be very therapeutic. Lastly- stretching will also keep the muscles warm. Before any strenuous activity (or even after a long period of inactivity) stretch your muscles to take the pressure off the joints.
What to Do About the Pain?
If you find the pain you have is mild, you can use herbal anti-inflammatory remedies like ginger or turmeric, or over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines like Aleve. Take the medicines as directed, only when needed, and with food. Also, consider resting and exercise as tolerated- you don’t want to worsen the pain.
If you’re having moderate or severe pain, regardless of the cause, its best to see a health care provider. This is the time when it’s necessary to speak to a professional to avoid further damage, receive and diagnosis, and start healing.