Living through the signs of winter presents all kinds of challenges to our bodies. Here are a few quick tips and observations that may help. As the weather fluctuates between some cold days and some bitter cold days, it’s hard to know what to wear. Some days have that elusive hint of spring, and the next thing you know, it’s a snowstorm and you’re unprepared.
Your body has a natural protection against the cold. It contends with cold air by protecting your core and neck. Think of what you do when you’re cold…your shoulders pull up to your ears and your arms and neck hunch forward. The problem is that your upper body often gets so used to that position, if you constantly under dress for the outside, that it stays tight in that posture. So take a few extra minutes to dress warmly, and let your shoulders relax down.
The next thing that happens in icy weather is that people slip and fall. There is simply no good way to fall, so the best prevention is wearing something on the bottom of your shoes or boots that will give you traction on ice and slippery surfaces. Yaktrax work very well, and can be bought at most sporting goods stores or at Yaktrax.com. They fit on the bottom of most shoes or boots and really make a difference.
A very common problem people have at this time of year is back and buttock pain. Often, there is no apparent cause. The answer is often the hamstrings, or back thigh muscles which tighten while they guard you when you walk on slippery surfaces. The hamstrings tighten as you take shortened steps, anticipating that the next time your foot steps down, it may slip a little. Massaging and stretching your hamstring can help.
Atmospheric pressure changes from winter storms can also have an effect on our bodies. Low pressure systems in which barometric pressure drops can cause swelling in joints of the hands, spine, hips, and knees as well as the sinuses. Some studies show that a low dose of Vitamin B-6 is helpful in lessening the effects on pressure changes on joints. Anti-inflammatories may also prove helpful, but bring their own side effects.
Another environmental consideration is maintaining adequate humidity in your home, because any heating source tends to dry the surrounding air. It’s important to keep the humidity around 50% in your home or work place. Humidifiers and humidistats (device that measures humidity) are very helpful in keeping your nasal passages, throat and sinuses moist. Home supply and hardware stores stock both products.
Lastly, snow shoveling can produce a negative effect on your body. There just isn’t a good biomechanical way to do this one-sided activity. If you can, purchase a small, lightweight snow blower; equipment that is not self-propelled is useful in clearing walkways, decks and around vehicles, and, if possible, have your driveway plowed. Otherwise, a bigger snow blower will do the job. If you can’t avoid shoveling snow, try to keep up with the accumulation and shovel when there are 3-5 inches of snow on the ground, but lesser amounts if the snow is heavy and wet.
Hold on! Daylight is growing and spring is just around the corner.