spin surgeon doctor credentials and awards

Winter’s Effect on Back Pain

It’s no secret that this winter has been unbearably cold. With record lows this February in many cities along the Eastern Seaboard, including here in New York, you might be wondering: what exactly is this bitter cold doing to our backs?

Winter in itself can make your joint pain worse – and in some cases it can be debilitating. In fact, some people with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis suffer from cold allodynia, which means they can predict approaching colder weather by how much pain they are in. In colder temperatures, the tissues in your body shrink, causing them to pull on nerve endings, which for many can result in joint pain. Also, cold weather can lead to muscle tightness, exacerbating lower back spasm.

Additionally, many cold weather activities can cause back aches and pain – from the repetitive bending and twisting associated with shoveling snow to the chance of slipping on a sheet of ice, winter-related slips and falls are highly common. With Winter Storm Pandora on its way out and the potential for more still on the horizon before spring finally hits, protect yourself from extra pain with these helpful tips:

  • Bundle up, including layers, hats, scarves, and gloves!
  • Warm up your muscles with stretches in the morning.
  • Use proper form when shoveling snow – bend at the knees and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Wear proper footwear with treading to avoid slips and falls.
    • Snow boots, like those from L. Bean and Sorel, provide great traction with their rubber sole. Don’t want to invest in a whole new pair of boots? Companies like YakTrax sell easy-to-use ice traction add-ons for your every-day shoes.
  • Stay active by exercising regularly to keep your muscles warm. It’s important to stay limber and improve balance to help prevent falls.

Have you noticed a spike in your back pain this bitterly cold winter? Share your experience with us on Facebook.