How Cold Weather Affects Back Pain: Pt. 1 | Total Performance Physical Therapy

How Cold Weather Affects Back Pain: Pt. 1

December 4, 2019

As a premier provider of physical therapy for back pain in Doylestown, Total Performance Physical Therapy understands how debilitating back pain can be in the colder months. The end of the calendar year brings a lot of exciting things: holidays, spending quality time with friends and family, eating delicious food, and relaxing by the fireplace. While the end of the year can be merry and bright for some, it begets aches and pains for those who struggle with inflammation or spinal problems. 

Today, we’ll address the effect cold weather has on back pain, identify any scientific merit, take anecdotal evidence into account, and explore some ways you can prevent back pain during the rest of the fall and throughout the winter.

Does Cold Weather Cause Back Pain?

Low temperature causes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the spine to tighten. This can put a strain on your spine and pull on the sensitive nerve roots leaving the spine, causing pain. If your joints are already inflamed, a drop in barometric pressure may cause swelling and pain.

Several major studies have suggested that there is a scientific correlation between low temperatures and reports of pain.

For example, in 2012, a study was conducted in Sweden on approximately 135,000 construction workers who spent several hours a day working out in the cold. Researchers found that the men who worked in colder temperatures had more reported instances of back and neck pain than those who spent most of their days working inside. Another study in Finland had very similar results as well.

Your Body’s Response to Cold Weather

When your body is faced with low temperatures, vasoconstriction occurs. This process is the narrowing of the blood vessels in your extremities and the delivery of that extra blood to vital areas like the brain, heart, lungs, and bowels to keep them warm. As a result, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons have less blood and grow stiff.

The same principle applies to structures supporting your spine. When the weather is cold, there is less blood flow to the structures supporting your spine, and they become naturally stiff, which, in turn, places additional strain on the back.

In the next part of this blog, we’ll continue looking into how the effect of cold weather on your mood, muscles, and more. Contact us to learn more about our physical therapy for back pain near Chalfont. Additionally, if you are suffering from back pain or sciatica and live in Bucks or Montgomery County, come to our free back pain and sciatica workshop. Click here for details!