How Cold Weather Can Exacerbate Back Pain

If you are one of the many back pain sufferers, whether it be from a condition such as spinal osteoporosis, or an undiagnosed condition, you may find yourself dreading the cooler temperatures. Although there is little to no scientific evidence to support the claim, back pain sufferers tend to agree that their pain worsens with cold weather. In fact, in a study of 800 Europeans with osteoarthritis, 67% reported that their pain levels were affected by the weather. So what is behind this increase in pain? Here is what we know:

Barometric Pressure and Back Pain

Barometric pressure, or the weight of the atmosphere around us, drops when temperatures decrease. To the average person, the change in pressure will likely go unnoticed, however, for back pain sufferers you may notice a flair up in symptoms. This is because the decrease in pressure causes the tissue in our bodies to expand, which may result in increased pressure on joints or other structures in the back.

Cold Muscles and Back Pain

Cold weather can result in cold muscles, which makes it more difficult for muscles to contract. This is due to the slower release of oxygen from hemoglobin, leading to a lower amount of oxygen available to your muscles. This lower availability of oxygen makes muscle contraction more difficult, resulting in a stiffness in your muscles. This stiffness can exacerbate back pain for some.

If you have found that your back pain is worse in the fall and winter, below are a few tips for easing the pain.

Ways to Combat Cold Weather Back Pain:

  • Apply heat
    • Hot pack
    • Warm towels
    • Heat wrap
    • Heating pad
  • Water
    • Hot Bath
    • Hot tub
    • Swimming in a heated pool
  • Staying active
    • Treadmill
    • Walking outside
    • Warming up muscles

It is important to keep muscles warm and loose by staying active. If the weather does not permit outdoor activities, there are plenty of ways to keep your muscles active indoors. If you have a treadmill in your home, walking is a great way to warm up muscles, as well as going swimming in an indoor pool.

Let Us Help!

Back pain can be uncomfortable, and although back pain is known to clear up on its own within several months time, often times there is an underlying cause for the pain. The doctors at the Spine and Pain Clinic of EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region can help diagnose and treat back pain. To learn more about treatments offered, click here. To request an appointment to see a specialist, click here.