We are fortunate to live in an area of the country in which the temperatures lean to the warm side more often than not. Ok, we could never really complain of cold temperatures in our neck of the woods! But during this time of year when trips may be planned to areas in which the temperature drops, it is important to know that various changes could affect the spine. This is particularly relevant for people with sciatica.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a symptom that sends pain shooting from the low back down through the buttock and leg, usually on one side only. Additional symptoms may include tingling, numbness, and weakness on the affected side. The reason that pain occurs as it does is that one or more of the nerves that exit the lumbar spine and travels down the lower extremities is being compressed. Compression could stem from a bulging or herniated disc or other underlying problem. Usually, the condition that is causing sciatica can be managed with proper medication and precautionary steps. These steps need to be modified when one encounters cold weather.
Sciatica and Cold Weather
Many people have reported that a change in weather leads to physical changes. This is particularly relevant to joints and symptoms of pain and stiffness. Studies have confirmed what patients have expressed by pointing out that a decrease in temperature coincides with an increase in pain-related complaints. A few of the reasons this could be so include:
- Muscles are more flexible when they are sufficiently warm. External temperatures that are extremely cold naturally cause the muscles throughout the body to stiffen. This could increase a person’s risk of injury.
- Air pressure also changes along with rising and falling temperatures. Research indicates that even slight increases in air pressure, or barometric pressure, could cause joints to become more compressed and painful.
Managing Sciatica in Cold Weather
If you plan to visit a region in which the winter temperatures will be lower than what your body is accustomed to, it is helpful to implement a few strategies, such as wearing a few thin layers of clothing, such as a thermal shirt under a sweater covered by a thick coat. When sleeping, cold temperatures can cause muscles to stiffen overnight. This can be offset by sleeping under a few blankets or an electric blanket. Before beginning an active day in cold weather, consider taking a warm shower or sitting with a warm compress on your low back.
We are proud to help our patients manage spine health and general wellness by keeping them well-informed and well-treated. For more information on the conservative treatment at Innovative Spine Care, call (813) 920-3022.