So winter is finally here: plan for the cold

Let us prepare to brace ourselves for the cold. It doesn’t seem to long ago that a considerable number of us we were all stuck in doors and kept from work because of the down pour of snow that stayed with us for weeks.

It seems we never learn a valuable lesson…. “Plan to fail or fail to plan”

Last year about the same time I was seeing numerous people who came to me with similar injuries. The injuries were not necessarily sustained by the ice or cold weather but rather the effects and the limitations the snow brought in their daily lives. Commonly patients would explain and complain that they had fallen on the ice, the sudden decrease in temperature seized their joints; it encouraged an increase in overall swelling and contributed to local muscle spasm. A common injury that I would see was a lower back injury due to pushing cars along repeatedly along an icy surface or road or uphill. I would also hear about back complaints due to the patient suddenly losing balance and either falling directly onto their backs or injuring their back by trying to stop themselves from slipping. Ironically, these often leads to the same conclusion… screaming back pain!

It is so important to recognise and plan for the cold times ahead – it is by far the commonest time for pain to surface and for old injuries to return.  Of course there is no escaping the cold outside however one should always take appropriate steps and, at best, take precaution to help in the prevention of any fresh, chronic or any long term underlying injuries that could potentially resurface due to the plummet in temperature in the foreseeable months ahead.

So the first line of defence, keep yourself wrapped up and dress in view of the season ahead – please recognise that I don’t say this to insult your intelligence but I have witnessed on more than a few occasions where members of the general public will wear simply shorts, t-shirts or a vest on a sunny day in the middle of December, a notion I am yet to fully understand but cannot yet fathom. It is something which is by no means uncommon as I am sure some of you have bared witness to and would  agree that it happens around us all the time, so…don’t be fooled! The cold has a massive impact on our bodies that is greatly expressed via our musculoskeletal (MSK) system and in a body that carries dormant problems it can only mean one thing: that symptomatic pain is much more likely to surface or resurface in some cases. Keeping yourself warm is equally important due to the number of bugs around – flu symptoms can cause aching and manifest strains in the body that can affect the way you feel later on as you make a full recovery when at the end you are no longer physically ill but MSK fatigued as the body is compensating.

We can treat this relatively the same as nursing any injury in spite of not actually having one; the best method is to take precautions and keep yourself moving, keep active as and where possible so always take advantage of the free time you have.

Even if you aren’t experiencing any real pain or discomfort almost all of us have experienced at some point or other a soft tissue injury or discomfort be it the lower back, neck or shoulders.

So what can YOU do at a time like this to minimise and or prevent these niggling issues and more to the point what can you do to further encourage your body to better health?  Here are some ideas and tips

  1. Keep moving (as one of my tutors used to tell me “moving is living”) I would like to add to that by insisting, moving is also healing.
  2. Know your limits. In other words do not do more than what you are capable of; we often push ourselves to meet demands and harm ourselves in the process. What value can we offer to another if we are no longer fit and healthy to be of service? So take regular breaks and move around stretch and interact. Physical health is just as important as social and mental health so have chat with someone or read something completely off topic and take your mind off a stressful situation for a moment or two, then re-centre and refocus to start the task ahead.
  3. You have one body one life so take care of you… look out and look after your posture as often and regularly as possible.  Our bodies and our posture is ultimately the reflection of our health and well being. Our bodies have tissue memory and we are creatures of habit and the posture you take on becomes you so be mindful of lazy posture.  A poor posture can often preload, prelude and maintain any underlying symptoms you have or are experiencing. So please try to get it right now.  Avoid slouching, avoid leaning and crossing legs for long durations; rather alter your position regularly, if you work at a desk ensure your monitor and phone (if possible to move) can be changed around either every two days or weekly to encourage more subtle movement in the spine (significantly, some mobility however small is far better than none at all), also ensure you have adjusted your chair to the right height and that the computer screen is at eye level. Regular stretching and moving throughout the day can aid in promoting a more structural and comfortable posture.
  4. Training and exercising are great to relieve stress and maintain a good healthy balance in weight.
  5. Eat well with good clean health in mind; nutrition is vital to the body for health and recovery. Do not pick at food, have whole solid meals and chew well for maximum absorption and ease of digestion.
  6. Adjust your car seat to suit you especially on long journeys and take regular stretch and moving breaks.
  7. If you have to carry a bag ensure that you are distributing weight evenly on either hand at a time share 5mins one side and 5mins the other, constantly rotating. Be mindful of your children when they carry back packs and ensure they are carrying the bags with both straps attached to the back or if there is only one strap then it should be carried with the strap across the shoulders and neck.
  8. Consider a new mattress if your bed is old, springy and worn.
  9. Start the day with mobility stretching and exercise; upon waking up move all areas of your body focusing and bringing your attention to your head, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrist and fingers, moving to your chest, stomach, hips, legs, knees, ankles and toes; be aware that these are all areas of the body needs attention and movement which we often do not think about during the entirety of the day. It makes a massive difference to the durability of our body throughout the day and our lives.
  10. Ice or heat? The burning question and often it is a matter of personal preference. There is no wrong or right answer; in fact it is down to one of two main things; education and experience. It is also down to trial and error. I personally like to use cold for acute injuries and for more chronic in nature rotating heat and cold equally works. See what works for you.

Going forward by seeking professional advice and help from an osteopath can greatly improve your quality of life and the quality of your health.

If there is anything you would like to know more of or seek some advice on how to maintain or further improve your health, fitness and recovery then get in touch and I will be more than happy to help you. I leave you with a personal favourite quote of mine that you can contemplate in your own time.

Buddha could not have said it any better that “every human being is the author of his own health and disease”

Thank you for reading.  If you have any questions or queries and would like to get in touch I welcome your calls or messages and look forward to hearing from you