4 Ways Weather Can Affect Back Pain

Thursday, Dec 27, 2018

When the temperature drops, it signifies the deepening of fall or the arrival of winter months. While the flurry of holidays and family gatherings are exciting, one factor that may be affected by the shifting temperatures is back pain. Much like joint pain, some people swear they can predict weather patterns by the twinge in their back.

Here are 4 reasons why weather plays a factor in back pain and how to stay vigilant, regardless of the time of the year:

  1. A drop in temperature causes tightening in the muscles- Our bodies learn how to adapt to any temperature for optimal function. When the human body is faced with cold temperatures, a process called vasoconstriction occurs which is the narrowing of the blood vessels in the extremities in order to pump extra blood to the vital organs. This affects the structures supporting the spine. The stiffening of the support structures around the spine during cold temperatures cause back pain to flare up.
  2. Scientific research has supported the link between weather and back pain- The jury is still out in the scientific community as to why weather can cause back pain. However, studies have proven a correlation between lower temperatures and exacerbated pain. In 2012, a Swedish study examined 135,000 construction workers who spent several hours working in the cold. When researchers compared these construction workers with those who performed similar work indoors, the former reported more instances of back and neck pain than the latter.
  3. Barometric pressure is the culprit of swelling and inflammation- While there has been no scientific proof of the link between barometric pressure and back pain, anecdotes as far back in time as ancient Greece have purported people who can “feel” a storm is coming by the pain in joints or back. The hypothesis has been linked to a drop in the barometric pressure before a storm which increases swelling around inflamed joints or back muscles. The additional swelling jilts the nerves surrounding the injured area which increases the level of pain experienced by the individual.
  4. Warm weather promotes better mood and more exercise- There is a reason people who suffer from back pain feel an alleviation of pain during the warmer months. Sunny days and clear skies give us plenty of opportunity to engage in exercise which is crucial for staving away back pain. Outdoor activities such as walking, swimming, and bike riding are the perfect low-impact, inflammation fighting exercises to keep the body active. Another benefit of an abundance of sunshine is the warding off of seasonal affective depression (SAD) which can aggravate back pain. SAD can be detrimental because it increases inflammation in the body as well as skews the perception of pain and fatigue. A great way to prevent SAD is to stay active during the colder months and eat a healthy diet.

The change in weather, whether the endless sunny days of summer, or the fleeting day of cold winter can exacerbate back pain in sufferers. In the cold months, it is important to vigilantly keep warm and stay active to make sure the supporting muscles around the spine are kept limber. In the warm months, an exercise routine goes a long way in preventing recurrences of back pain. If you have any questions about how to protect yourself from back pain year-round, contact NeuSpine Institute today.