Winter weather is here, and that means there’s an increased potential for back pain or weather-related injuries. Whether your back is healthy now or you’re living with existing back pain, winter can wreak havoc on your back with aches and pains, along with added hazards.
Here are some common causes of back aches and pains during the winter months.
Joint pain and/or arthritis flare-ups
It isn’t uncommon for someone with arthritis to be able to predict coming rain or cold weather. While the science isn’t conclusive about whether changing weather causes back pain, there are several theories as to why you may feel more pain in your joints when it’s cold outside. One is the change in barometric pressure. When atmospheric pressure drops, tissues in the body expand, putting added pressure on the joints.
Injury or strain from shoveling snow
We may not see that wintery white stuff much in the Houston area, but our region was surprisingly the first in the state to see winter snow this season. Next time you find yourself shoveling snow, take care of your back. Bend at your legs, rather than your back, and think about pushing the snow off your driveway or sidewalk, rather than throwing it. Pick up smaller amounts of snow with each scoop, and be sure to shovel the snow in both directions, so as not to overwork just one side of your back.
Strain from walking on ice
The combination of below-freezing temps and drizzle or rain that makes outside surfaces wet is a dangerous one. Not only is there the risk of falling on slick or icy sidewalks, roads or parking lots, but simply walking gingerly across slippery surfaces can cause muscle tension and strain.
If you must walk on ice, try to stay relaxed. If you do fall, you’re less likely to pull a muscle if you’re relaxed than if your muscles are tight and tense. Most importantly, give yourself extra time so you won’t be in a rush to catch the bus or get into work.
Staying indoors to avoid freezing temperatures
When a winter blast of cold air hits, it can be tempting to skip out on your workout to stay indoors and stay warm. But remember, physical activity helps strengthen your back, protecting it from injury. If you aren’t a fan of cold weather, consider signing up for a gym membership for the next few months so you’ll have a warm, dry place to get in your workouts this winter. If you have existing back problems, stick to exercises like walking, cycling or swimming.
Wearing treadless shoes
Safety before fashion. Be sure the soles of your shoes or boots have enough grip on them to keep you upright when walking on snow or ice. If you feel uneasy about walking on a slippery surface, carry a walking stick or cane to provide added stability and balance.
Carrying heavy loads
‘Tis the season for shopping. Just remember you don’t have to get all of those bags from the car to the house in one trip. Make extra trips if you need to, and be sure to equalize the load on your body and carry bags at your side with your arms straight. When lifting heavy bags or boxes from your car, first shift the package as close to your body as possible, then bend your knees as you lift.
Overdoing it on winter yard work
When the weather is cold, your body reacts with cold, stiff muscles. Avoid doing any unnecessary yard work like clearing tree limbs or trimming branches. Leave the work for warmer weather, or call in a pro to take care of it for you.
If the winter weather has you feeling that ache in your back, or if you’ve strained or injured yourself in a fall, give Dr. Kushwaha, Houston’s trusted spine surgeon, a call today.