Dr. Anand Blog
September 16, 2016
As we wave goodbye to the warm summer season and greet the colorful and brisk autumn – did you know that your chances of experiencing acute back pain may be on the rise? There are a variety of reasons this may be the case – the start of a new household chore such as raking leaves or cleaning the gutters, a lack of movement as the cooler weather begs you to stay indoors, or how your body physiologically reacts to the cooler temps. Understanding the most common reasons for autumn-related back pain (and tips to avoid it) can help you stay as pain-free as possible all season long.
As the leaves begin to fall and the wind starts to blow, you may find yourself dedicating much more of your time to cleaning up the mess that has suddenly piled itself up in your yard. The sweeping, raking, and general upkeep are strenuous activities for muscles that may not be accustomed to this much movement. The repetitive bending, twisting, and turning can take your unprepared muscles by storm and cause painful strains to your lower back.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from these injuries.
The first and single best thing you can do to make sure your muscles are ready for the workout that we call gardening, is stretching. The brisk weather has likely already has worked its magic on stiffening up your muscles, so you’re a few steps behind the starting line to begin with. Taking a few minutes to do a deep stretch of the muscles that support the lower back can not only increase your flexibility, but also decrease the chance of these muscles tightening up or giving out. If you’re like most people, the goal is to get through these activities in the least amount of time physically possible. However, rushing straight through with no breaks is a recipe for regret. Take your time, maintain your posture, and take frequent breaks to straighten out your back every 15 minutes. Intermittent physical activity carries less risk of back strain than one straight burst of strenuous twisting and bending movements.
As the holidays start to approach (and football season has officially begun), it becomes easy to forego the regular gym routine, and instead find yourself staying home on the couch wrapped up in a blanket. This lack of regular exercise can directly contribute to low back pain, as the muscles that support the spine start to lose strength. As difficult as it can seem, try to reserve at least 20 minutes a day to maintaining an exercise regimen or daily stretching. Doing so will leave your body much less vulnerable to an attack of acute back pain.
The one factor we simply cannot avoid is the seasonal change in weather. Cool fall air causes a change in barometric pressure, which in turn can put extra pressure on joints, creating stiffness. To help minimize the cool air impact, dress warmly with plenty of layers to keep your muscles from freezing, and use a heating pad for specific problem areas.
Even though back pain can be quite common during this time of year, getting through it with a healthy back is possible. Following these preventative tips will help you to avoid any major episodes of acute back pain and to be able to fully enjoy the autumn season, leaves and all.