Back Pain in Winter
Winter back pain can really slow you down and ruin your day.
Back pain is bad enough at any time of year, but it is often worse during the colder months.
Though the scientists struggle to explain the exact reasons, anecdotal evidence seems to back this up.
It is plausible that conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis would be affected by the weather, but most other back pain can be caused by a variety of reasons, and science doesn’t always pinpoint the exact reason why.
However, two things tend to be true in winter. Mood is often lower, and people tend to exercise less.Both these aspects are thought to have an impact on levels of discomfort.
Whatever the real causes, there are ways that you can find relief
Winter back pain – possible ways to deal with it
Heat therapy offers a quick, easy and inexpensive way to relieve back pain.
But although it is referred to as ‘heat’ it would be better thought of as warmth. Excessive heat can be detrimental.
Hot baths, steamed towels and moist heating packs can all help to lessen the pain and bring temporary relief for back pain. And a hot water bottle is usually good to apply for about 30 minutes.
Heat therapy is particularly good for back pain that has been caused by tension from activities like lifting. Its main benefit is it helps re-stimulate circulation.
If your lower back has been under tension, it often causes a tightness of the soft tissue which may well have restricted circulation. Therefore, anything that helps to get the circulation going again will help.
Exercise and winter back pain
Although it often feels counter-intuitive to exercise when you have back pain, it is often just what is needed.
The typical reaction is to take it easy, and either stay in bed or stop strenuous activity; however, resting for more than a day or two can actually undermine healing and worsen pain.
In many cases, there are actually a number of benefits to continuing to exercise. Uppermost of these is alleviating stiffness and increasing mobility.
Given the time of year, the release of endorphins that reasonably challenging exercise give can act not only as a pain reliever but also as a way to lift your mood.
Crucially, improving circulation can help to spread nutrients through the body which can be particularly beneficial for the spinal discs.
(If you are worried about further damaging your back though, it is safer to do supervised sessions. Possibly in a controlled environment such as studio pilates).
Winter back pain and diet
Something you may not have fully considered is how your diet is affecting your back pain.
With the best will in the world, your diet can often suffer at this time of year. In an attempt to lift your mood, or to keep yourself buzzing on these cold winter days, you may be consuming more sugar, coffee, alcohol or processed foods than you really should.
All of those foods can increase inflammation and make the pain worse. As an antidote, try taking on board more foods rich in magnesium such as sardines, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) and dried fruits. These will in turn help with the absorption of calcium.
Not only is the calcium good for the bones (and in this case the spine), but in addition, the magnesium can act as a muscle relaxant.