I noticed a trend resulting from all of the cold, snowy winter weather we had this year: it has wreaked havoc on our bodies! Some people are naturally sensitive to cold damp weather- especially those who suffer from things like arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, sinus infections, asthma, bronchitis, etc. However, it’s not just these people who are victimized by cold invasions. The lifestyles we take on due to the climate can cause or aggravate aches and pains (not to mention slips and falls on ice). I’m referring to all of the snow shoveling, the clunky boots that are necessary to navigate the sidewalks, the heavy layers of clothing and the shivering that causes our shoulders to hunch.
I treated many people this winter experiencing what seemed like plantar fasciitis (inflammatory pain in the heel or underside of the foot), commonly associated with heel spurs, and I suspect this had more to do with footwear (and particularly, wearing the same boots day in and day out) than anything else. Poorly fitted boots and shoes compromise the feet and may lead not only to local aches, pains and blisters, but to other issues- like joint pains in the knees and hips.
I also noticed more upper trapezius and neck tightness in many patients, likely resulting from poor posture. Shoulders hunched to keep the body warm may cause muscle tightness, and many of my patients who work outdoors presented with unusual upper back tightness afterwards. Poor posture can affect the whole body and lead to chronic pain- not only in the upper back, but in the lower body as well.
Speaking of the lower body… nowhere else feels the pain of snow shoveling more than the lower back. This area takes the brunt of it, no matter how good your form or how light the snowfall. It is not a forgiving activity and many, many patients had terrible pain in their lower back and through their hips from this work.
Now that winter is coming to a close- finally!- take stock of your physical health and how your body feels. If you notice discomfort, ask yourself if this is a new symptom and if it can be attributed to seasonal weather. And, of course, address it before it becomes chronic: change up your footwear, correct poor posture and have any low back or neck pain treated right away. Now that the snowfall is (hopefully!) done, attend to your health in time to enjoy the spring.