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The Chilling Truth: How Cold Weather Affects Your Neck & Back

Cold WeatherNew England in the latter half of the year is an unpredictable force when it comes to the weather. In the autumn you may find bright sun and beautiful views, or a cold and dreary rain that seeps into your bones, but you’ll likely experience a bit of both at some point. The winter, more predictable, can be bitterly cold with gray skies but full of winter sports. These two seasons bring on a series of health concerns. The colder air and lower temperatures can affect you in ways you might not anticipate, and can be a health concern beyond just catching a cold.

During the colder months, many people with chronic pain, arthritis, and especially back and neck pain, will complain of, and show worsening symptoms. But is it just a placebo from gray skies and low temperatures, or is there a real link?

Medical research has yet to provide a clear-cut answer on this issue. However, there have been studies suggesting that a drop in barometric pressure that comes along with low temperatures in fall/winter causes tissues around your joints to swell and pressures pain centers in your nerves. Others have pointed to common changes in the body in response to the cold. Blood vessels constrict to keep you warm, and can also trigger pain receptors. Some studies have gone the opposite way and call it simply superstition. What can’t be argued, though, is that patient’s experiences almost overwhelmingly align, and they agree that lower back and neck pain are worse in colder months. Patients with sciatica report, and upon study, show a strong correlation with cold weather and increased symptoms and pain.

There are a number of ways you can help manage your symptoms and pain while at home in the cold New England season.

Apply Direct Heat: 

Using a hot pack, warm towel, or a heating pad can alleviate pain and/or stiffness. Apply to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time.

Water Therapy:

Try a hot bath or a jacuzzi if you have access. Refrain from doing any polar bear snow angels, which is the act of warming up in a jacuzzi, rolling in the snow, then jumping back into the hot water. The shock can actually make the pain worse.

Stay Active:

The increased pain and cold weather will both make you want to stay home and stay lethargic, but this will only aggravate your symptoms. Staying active keeps your blood flowing and increases joint health. In addition, always be sure to stretch all of your muscles to warm them up before any physical activity; especially if that activity involves shoveling snow.

Consult with Your Chiropractor:

If your pain has become more than you can manage, don’t hesitate to consult with your chiropractor. They can provide exercises and other methods of pain control to help you cope not just through the cold months, but all year long for chronic pain sufferers.

At Access to Health, we also provide massage therapy which can significantly ease back and neck pain, as well as a number of other ailments. Our goal is to provide all of our patients with the highest quality chiropractic care with the best treatment options for each individual’s needs so that going through bitter cold winter months will be a breeze!

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