Many of us suffer from aches and pains on occasion. And for some, this discomfort becomes more severe during the colder seasons.
If you experience pain in your lower back or legs when temperatures drop, you might be experiencing sciatica. While it’s common, sciatica is often a result of an underlying spinal condition, and these symptoms might be more severe when the weather turns cold.
Luckily, there are ways to manage and prevent discomfort during the winter season. Read more of our insights on cold weather pain and how you can treat sciatica when it starts to get chilly outside.
Sciatic Nerve Pain: The Basics
Your sciatic nerve is the largest in your body, and it extends from your lower spine, through the hips, buttocks, and legs, all the way down to your feet.
When this large nerve is pinched or damaged, it can cause other problems (and a considerable amount of pain or discomfort). You might experience sciatic pain anywhere along the nerve: in your buttocks, leg, or down in your foot. The intensity and type of pain can also vary, from soreness or tingling, to searing and sharp pains.
Cold weather can often make these symptoms worse: when temperatures head towards freezing, we tend to tense up our muscles. Often the weather will bring snow, and activities like shoveling snow can aggravate an existing condition.
Pro Tip: Keep a daily journal to record when you experience pain, where the discomfort is, and how intense the pain is. With a history of your condition, your doctor will be able to determine the right treatment for you.
Treating Sciatic Pain in Cold Weather
If your symptoms flare up when it gets cold out, there are a few approaches to address cold weather pain, so you can prevent it from getting worse.
Stay warm. And that doesn’t just mean bundling up in layers. Keep your back warm and tuck in your shirt to prevent a cold draft when you’re outside. You can also try carrying some of the portable hand warmer pads. Sleep with a heating pad or blanket to keep your muscles from tensing up during the night.
Stay active. Keep up with your usual routine and daily activity as much as you’re able to. If you have to shovel around your house at any point, it’s not a good idea to jump into anything that requires heavy exertion after you’ve been sedentary (like we sometimes get around the winter holidays).
Stay safe. If you’re already in pain, don’t take on those extra outside chores. If you need to lift anything heavy, ask for help first! And be sure to wear the right shoes to prevent slipping on any frozen surfaces if you need to be out in the cold.
There are a few other ways to help alleviate sciatic pain if your condition starts to get worse:
- Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen are often prescribed to help relieve any discomfort.
- Chiropractic care has also been found to be effective for spinal pain.
- Corticosteroid injections can help alleviate inflammation and pain.
Some sciatica patients might find that surgery is the best solution for their pain and specific condition. Fortunately, spinal surgery doesn’t necessarily have to be invasive or require an extensive amount of time for recovery. If you require surgery for your sciatica, be sure to work with a surgeon who has your best interests and future health in mind.
Preventing Pain in Cold Weather
The cold weather doesn’t have to make your spinal condition more severe. Staying warm and taking the right precautions when temperatures drop can help you get through a harsh winter without experiencing additional pain.