What is it about the approach of winter that seems to aggravate aches and pains, especially neck and back pain? This effect is somewhat controversial in scholarly literature on medicine, but for some people it’s inescapable and excruciating. Controversial it may be, but the condition does have a medical name: cold allodynia. While for many people who experience it the problem may be associated with such systemic maladies as fibromyalgia, those who suffer back pain often feel worse as the days shorten and the calendar tips toward winter.
Even if we don’t experience it ourselves, most of us have heard of people whose chronic joint pain seems to predict changes in the weather based on how their joints are feeling. People with fibromyalgia report that cold, damp weather makes their symptoms more painful. Osteoarthritis patients complain of swelling or warmth that worsens as cold weather comes on.
Warm it up
One way to ward off the unpleasantness and pain of cold weather is to take advantage of heat therapy by making it a part of your daily routine. Here’s how:
- Apply Heat. A warm towel, heating pad or over-the-counter heat pack or wrap, applied for a few minutes to the affected area, can be very helpful
- Swim. Put in some leisurely laps in a heated pool, or soak in a warm whirlpool or bath
- Work it out. Join a water exercise program, to combine warmth with low-stress exercise
- Come out of your cave. As tempting as it may be to hide from the cold, inactivity can worsen pain. Walk outdoors, or if you must stay in, try a treadmill or elliptical trainer. Some shopping malls and community centers have indoor walking programs so you can get out for some exercise but still keep away from winter weather.