Back pain in winter: does cold weather make it worse?

If you're familiar with back pain and tension, and perhaps have had a herniated disc, you know that the cold can feel like it's seeping into your bones. Do back problems really get worse in the fall? Most people with back pain firmly say that the cold season makes the pain worse. But is that just anecdotal, or are there solid reasons why your back reacts when the mercury goes down?

Cold can be poison for your back

Many people who suffer from back pain say cold weather makes their symptoms worse. A large study conducted in Sweden and published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health surveyed almost 135,000 male construction workers.

The researchers found that the men who worked in low temperatures reported neck and back pain more often than those who worked there in higher temperatures. This is not the only study that underpins the subjective feelings of many of those affected. What are the reasons for that?

Back problems in autumn and winter

Here are some reasons why your back problems may increase in the fall and winter:

The discomfort can increase because your muscles become stiff in the cold. The muscles of the spine can become tight and tense. Extra tension can make the pain worse and increase the risk of a muscle strain or sprain.

air pressure

Air pressure drops before a storm or when the temperature changes drastically. These changes affect the nerves in the lower back, which may already be overly sensitive.

Body stress

Even if you're not a downhill skier, you may find yourself shoveling snow down your driveway, and shoveling can take a toll on even a healthy spine. Alternatively, you may have to haul a sack of rock salt or sand, or help push a car out of a snowdrift. There's also a chance you'll slip on an icy walk and twist your back, or worse, fall.

What can you do to relieve back problems in autumn and winter?

Tip #1. Keep warm

Wear warm clothing and dress in layers. A few thin layers of clothing can keep you warmer than a single thick layer. Keep your lower back warm. Tuck in your shirt to make sure your back doesn't get cold when you reach for something, then throw a sweater over it. At night, a few blankets or an electric blanket on your bed can help keep your muscles from tensing up. Keep your home as warm as possible. Let your car run for a few minutes to warm it up before driving.

Tip #2 - good shoes

Wear good shoes or boots Your winter shoes should have treads to prevent slips and falls. You can buy a set of cleats to fit over your shoes to keep you sure-footed in freezing weather.

Tip #3. Shovel snow properly

Before heading outside, take a few minutes to stretch and warm up internally. Do it right: When shoveling snow, go slowly and don't overload your shovel. Lift with your legs, not your back, and move smaller snow shovels rather than a large, heavy snow shovel or two. Don't twist your back while lifting the shovel. Face the direction you are going to throw the snow.

Tip #4. Stay active

Winter is the time when you want to stay on the couch, but keeping in shape is the best way to help your back. Try not to gain weight in winter and keep exercising.

If, despite all precautionary measures, you suffer a herniated disc, come to the Apex-Spine center in Munich. Excellent and experienced doctors are available here to treat you and, if necessary, to operate on the herniated disc. Find out now!