Does the thought of winter leave you with an ache in your bones? You’re not imagining it. Cold winter weather is known to exacerbate pain – especially in the back.
Let’s take a closer look at why we get back pain in cold weather, then learn which Chinese herbal formulas can help you embrace winter pain-free.
Why Does Back Pain Get Worse in Cold Weather?
If you’ve had back pain for a while, you might have already noticed that your pain shifts with the seasons. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed that you are more susceptible to athletic injuries or slower recovery in winter than other months.
Why? Because our bodies respond to the changes in the environment. Winter shifts in temperature, pressure and even mindset can impact our physical wellbeing.
Here are a few reasons why the winter months could mean an increase in your back pain:
Cold temperatures cause stagnation.
Temperature changes impact the fluids and tissues in our bodies just as it does the environment. Coldness can cause blood flow to slow and tissues to contract. In the back, this can mean stiffer, tighter muscles and pressure on the nerves.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, cold also causes qi stagnation (one of the key causes of pain and poor function). It’s important to actively keep the back warm from the outside (through liniments, warm compresses or plasters), and internally (through exercise, warming foods and herbal medicine) if we want to prevent cold back pain.
Weather changes can increase pain.
Can you tell the weather by how your back feels? In winter, air pressure tends to drop. The plummeting barometric pressure causes the gasses and fluids in our joints to expand, which then puts stress on the surrounding tissues (and increases your pain).
Beyond barometric pressure, wind and cold dampness (from rain, snow or ice) also affect our joints. In Chinese medicine, these two environmental factors are considered “external evils” – they enter the body and lodge in our tissues. If your back feels cold to the touch, your pain worsens when you’re outside in cold or wet weather, or you feel relief with heat and dryness, your pain is likely related to cold or cold-dampness.
Cold increases pain sensitivity.
Some researchers believe that cold weather makes pain receptors more sensitive, so our pain feels more severe than it might in warmer temperatures.
Less daylight means less vitamin D.
Shorter days and colder weather keeps many of us indoors. While it’s normal to spend less time outside in winter, it can also mean we get much less vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for healthy bones and cartilage. Without adequate daily amounts, vulnerable areas of your spine could suffer. Those with back pain due to osteoarthritis are particularly at risk of increased pain from vitamin D deficiency.
Stress and low moods can impact pain perception.
Winter can be a stressful time for many of us. Unfortunately, the lack of mood-boosting sunlight (and vitamin D that comes with it) doesn’t help. Studies show that seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder can heighten our perception of pain. But you don’t have to be diagnosed with SAD to experience an increase in pain. It’s common to feel stressed or tired in winter, which also makes back pain feel more severe.
The Kidney system is vulnerable in winter.
In Chinese medicine, each season has a corresponding organ system. For winter, that organ system is the Kidney – which also rules over the bones, low back and knees. To promote good Kidney health and keep back pain at bay in winter, it’s important to rest, nourish the body with warming foods and balance yin and yang. But, since winter is the ultimate yin time of year, keeping yang up to snuff can be a challenge (which is why cold pain in the low back is so common). That’s where Chinese herbs come in.
Warm Up with Chinese Herbal Remedies for Back Pain in Winter
When winter back pain keeps you from doing the activities you love, look to Chinese herbs for effective, natural relief.
For Winter Back Pain and Arthritis: Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang (Healthy Joint Formula)
For any kind of arthritis that worsens in cold weather, Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang can help. This formula restores the body’s yang qi to promote joint healing and dispels environmental factors like cold, wind and dampness that exacerbate pain.
For All Back Pain: Topical Pain Relief
The Ho Family Dit Da Jow topical formula is a powerful herbal analgesic for nearly all types of pain. The magic of this formula lies in its balance: it offers both warming pain relief while also reducing inflammation that prevents healing.
For Pain-Free Winter Performance: Dong Chou Jiu (Fall and Winter Training Tonic)
Dong Chou Jiu is a training tonic designed for martial artists and other high-performance athletes. This blend of powerfully warming and invigorating herbs (like lu rong and Jilin ginseng) strengthens the sinews, bones and joints to enhance your cold weather performance and prevent back pain.
Banish Back Pain in Winter
While you can blame an increase in back pain on the weather, any pain is a sign of an underlying imbalance in the body that needs correcting. Heat therapy can help relax your tight back muscles and aching joints. But if you want to get to the root of the pain, you’ll need to go deeper.With healthy lifestyle habits and our Chinese herbal remedies, you can warm up your back from the root to stop back pain in winter.