If you’ve been dreading the arrival of winter, it may be because you fear the effects of cold weather on your back. For many people, cold weather can make a sore back worse; it’s also responsible for causing numerous injuries every season.
You can help keep the dangers of winter away with the right cold weather preparations for your back.
Your mom probably bundled you up as a kid at the first chance of rain, right? After all, you don’t want to “catch cold.” Whether or not you can actually catch a cold just by being cold has been debated for decades, but one thing is true: Staying warm in the winter is critical to keeping your back healthy—or keeping your back injury from getting worse. Cold weather is one of the causes of joint pain, and can also inflame your tissues and make your muscles tense up. Dressing in layers can help insure you keep your body warm and can cool off easily when needed.
Mind your shoes
Go grab those UGG boots you’ve been wearing for the past few years. Now, turn them over. How’s the tread looking? If it’s started to wear down, it might be time for a new pair. Lack of tread is the leading cause of falls on ice and snow, and those falls can cause painful back injuries, among other things.
Get your muscles loose before going outside
Stiff muscles can make it hard to move freely, and if you trip, slip, fall, or buckle a knee, your back is likely to be in far more pain than it is now. Mild stretching before you leave your house can keep everything moving well, but, if you’re under a doctor’s care for your back, be sure to ask first.
Learn some new exercises
If you have a good back doctor, he or she should be able to show you some exercises that are appropriate for your condition. Staying in good physical shape—or improving your fitness level—can make it easier to get through a cold and dreary winter. Keep in mind also that snow or ice storms may make it hard to get to the gym (if you’re still able to go with the back pain you are feeling). In-home exercises will give you a better option than getting behind the wheel during dangerous weather conditions.
Find someone else to do any necessary snow plowing
If you are dealing with back pain or an injury and there is any shoveling of snow to be done this year, someone else should be doing it. Devastating, right? This kind of activity is not recommended when you have a bad back or are not in good overall health.
Shoveling snow is “an activity that sends thousands of Americans to emergency rooms each winter,” said the Washington Post. “Don’t tackle the walkway if you aren’t in good enough shape, say the experts. You can get hurt or, even worse, trigger a heart attack or stroke.
The Post noted a study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio from a few years ago in which researchers found that “an average of 11,500 snow-shoveling-related injuries and medical emergencies occur annually in the United States. More than half involve soft-tissue injuries, as well as lacerations, bone fractures and harm from slips and falls.”
Get your house in order
Are your fireplace and your heater or furnace in good working order? Do you have drafts in your home? All set for blankets and warm bedding? Addressing winter issues with your house before it gets frigid can help you endure the season, especially if the cold increases your pain or if your mobility is threatened because you’re dealing with chronic back pain.
Before winter arrives, you’ll also want to make sure you have comfort items like a heating pad and any over-the-counter or prescription medications you take, plus sufficient water and food in case inclement weather makes it more difficult to leave the house.
Reach for a salad
Cold nights are made for thick, rich soups and stews and chili and…before you know it, you may be feeling a little something extra under your sweater. Gaining weight isn’t just a frustration, it can also put extra stress on your back and increase your pain. Making healthy choices throughout the year can help keep the scale from moving, but, more importantly, protect your back from the pain of carrying any extra weight.
Mind your mental state
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year,” said the Mayo Clinic. “If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
Depression can make you less motivated to take care of yourself, which could make your back pain worse or exacerbate your condition. At the first sign of SAD or other types of depression, consult a doctor.
In some cases, back pain goes away on its own. But if your pain is not improving or is getting worse, it might be time to see a doctor. The good news for those suffering from chronic pain are the advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques, which makes treatment easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.
For more information, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.