You're not the only one wondering, "Why does my back hurt when I'm cold?"
According to studies, up to 23% of the world's population has back pain, so lumbar discomfort in cold weather is much more common than expected. (1)
But is there a link between cold temperatures and back discomfort, and can you manage chronic pain during the cold months?
Keep reading, and you'll find the answers.
- Low temperatures can affect the body by narrowing blood vessels and stiffening muscles due to limited blood flow.
- Some people are more prone to depression during the winter, which can increase their pain sensitivity.
- Staying active during the winter is an excellent way to keep back pain at bay and relieve stress, depression, and mood swings.
5 Reason Why Your Back Hurt in Winter Months
I have chronic back pain that tends to get worse during the colder months of the year, making it nearly impossible to do my daily activities, especially when experiencing back pain while bending.
When I talked to my doctor, he explained that cold weather can cause or exasperate back discomfort because low temperatures can tighten muscles. But that's not the only cause.
So, here are the most common reasons why your back may hurt during winter weather.
#1 Stiff Muscles and Joints
Colder weather affects your muscles, joints, and ligaments, narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the blood flow. The result is muscle tightness and stiffness. This phenomenon can be particularly linked to the complaint of "back pain when cold weather" sets in.
And when your muscles are stiff and tight, your spine's structures and nerves are under more strain than usual.
#2 Lack of Exercise
Exercise is an excellent way to stay healthy and pain-free, but during the cold weather months, people are less likely to feel motivated to exercise.
But as specialists from Versus Arthritis say, "If you stop being active for a long time, the muscles in your back become weak, and you become less fit, and this can make your back pain worse." (2)
#3 You're More Likely to Get Sick
You're more likely to get sick during the winter because your body is less effective in fighting viruses and bacteria when the temperatures are low.
Moreover, since many people don't exercise in winter, the lack of activity can weaken the immune system and make you prone to upper respiratory infections and other diseases.
And here's the curious thing about pain during illness: When you're sick, your body's immune response increases your sensitivity to pain, so minor aches turn into moderate pain.
So, any mild back discomfort can seem worse during the winter months, especially if you're coming down with the flu. In such times, one might ponder, "Does a hot tub help with back pain?" as the warmth can potentially soothe the discomfort and provide relief during colder periods when symptoms may be amplified.
Do you know that there's a link between back discomfort and depression? According to Mayo Clinic, depression can cause many physical symptoms, including back pain.
This might prompt the question, "what causes lower back pain in females?" While several factors can contribute, emotional and mental well-being plays a significant role in physical health.
During the winter months, you can't get much sunshine, which puts you at risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder. So, it's no wonder many people have back problems in colder months.
And when you're in pain, you're more likely to get depressed because you can't perform your usual daily tasks.
#5 Winter Chores
Winter involves strenuous activities, such as shoveling snow from the driveway or chopping wood. It's easy to overwork your body and get back/neck pain from muscle strain.
In such scenarios, one might wonder, "Do canes help with back pain?" Indeed, using a cane can help distribute your weight more evenly, especially when navigating slippery surfaces, and reduce the load on your back muscles, potentially easing the pain associated with overexertion.
How to Prevent Back Discomfort in Winter Months
If your back starts hurting when the weather turns cold, you can do a couple of things to prevent major discomfort:
- Keep your muscles warm. When going outside to perform your usual activities, ensure you're well-dressed to prevent your muscles from tightening from the cold.
- Try low-impact exercises or physical therapy. Aerobic exercises are perfect for relieving aches caused by strain and sprains.
- Soak in hot water. Heat can loosen stiff muscles, improve blood circulation, and reduce lower back pain.
- Stay active. Physical activities and exercises are perfect for relieving depression and maintaining a strong immune system.
- Learn proper shoveling techniques to avoid stressing your back when shoveling snow. Watch this video for more information.
1. Does the lower back hurt with a cold?
A cold virus can make your lower back hurt because of the body's immune response to the underlying infection. Frequent coughing can also strain the back muscles.
2. What is the fastest way to relieve back pain?
Applying a heating pad or a cold compress can relieve back pain quickly. Another fast option is over-the-counter pain medication.
3. How do I know if my back pain is serious?
Consult your doctor if back pain appears suddenly and doesn't improve after a day or two of home care.
Low temperatures can trigger back pain because you're not keeping your muscles warm enough. It's also easy to get the blues in winter due to a lack of physical activity.
But you can lower the risk of back problems in winter if you stay as active as possible and take proper precautions when doing winter chores.
What do you think about this topic? Does your back hurt when you're cold? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
1. Casiano V, De N. Back Pain [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538173/
2. Back pain [Internet]. Versus Arthritis. 2018. Available from: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/back-pain/
3. Hall-Flavin D. Depression can cause pain and pain can cause depression [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2019. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/pain-and-depression/faq-20057823