Navigating Your Pain This Winter: Understanding the Impact of Cold Weather on Neck and Low Back Pain and Effective Strategies for Relief

As the temperature drops and winter sets in, many individuals find themselves grappling with increased neck and low back pain. The link between cold weather and musculoskeletal discomfort is not a mere coincidence. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind the exacerbation of neck and low back pain during winter and discuss practical strategies to alleviate and prevent such discomfort.

Part 1: The Cold Weather Connection

Cold weather can have a significant impact on neck and low back pain due to various factors. Firstly, the drop in temperature causes muscles, ligaments, and tendons to contract, leading to stiffness and reduced flexibility. Additionally, decreased blood flow to the muscles can result in inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply, exacerbating pain and discomfort. Changes in barometric pressure, commonly experienced during winter, may also contribute to increased joint and tissue sensitivity.

Part 2: Winter Strategies for Neck Pain Relief 

To combat neck pain during the winter months, consider implementing the following strategies:

Stay Warm: Dress in layers, wear scarves or turtlenecks if you’re so bold, and use heat packs, hot water bottles or warm compresses to maintain optimal warmth and promote muscle relaxation. Staying warm helps keep blood flow to the muscles which will stop them from tightening up too quickly.

Maintain Good Posture: Pay attention to your posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping. Use supportive pillows and ergonomic chairs to reduce strain on the neck. Position break ups are key, so keep changing your position every 20-30 minutes to avoid getting stiff and locked up.

Gentle activation and Range of Motion Exercises: Perform neck and shoulder activations and range of motion exercises to enhance mobility and relieve tension. Examples include chin tucks, neck rotations, and retractions. See my 2 favourite ones below which both can be done in lying or even in sitting while your at the desk on the compueter!

Chin Tuck

Retractions

Regular Exercise: Engage in low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or others like pilates and yoga to improve overall strength and flexibility, which can all help alleviate neck pain.

Part 3: Winter Strategies for Low Back Pain Relief 

To address low back pain during the winter season, consider implementing the following strategies:

Maintain a Comfortable Environment: Ensure your indoor environment is warm and well-insulated. Use heat packs and hot water bottles like on the neck help increase blood flow to soothe the lower back muscles. A top tip is to also use the heat pack on the sides of the glutes!

Lumbar Support: Use chairs and car seats with adequate lumbar support. Consider using a lumbar roll or cushion to maintain proper spinal alignment and alleviate pressure on the lower back. Changing positions frequently will also make a significant difference to tightness in the low back. Try not stay seated for more than 20-30 minutes without a quick position change whether its going to make a warm tea or doing a quick activation exercise.

Core and Glute Activation Exercises: Engage in exercises that target the core and glute muscles as these are the two big supports of the low back. Exercise such as planks, clams, crab walks and bird dogs. Strong core muscles provide stability and support for the lower back. Here are my two favourites to do:

Birddog

Crab walks

Mindful Lifting and Movement: When lifting heavy objects or performing activities that strain the lower back, practice proper body mechanics and utilize your core and legs instead of your back muscles.

So what have we learnt? 

Winter weather can indeed exacerbate neck and low back pain! By understanding the reasons behind this increased discomfort and implementing practical strategies, such as staying warm, maintaining good posture, performing gentle activation exercises, and incorporating core and glute strengthening exercises, individuals can find relief and prevent further aggravation of these conditions. 

Remember to listen to your body, see your physio if needed, and prioritize self-care during the winter months to manage neck and low back pain effectively. Stay warm and pain-free throughout the winter season!

Joel Adelman – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Joel Adelman – BeFit Training Physio Coogee

Joel Adelman is a physiotherapist based in Coogee in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Joel has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. To book a consultation, click the link below.

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