Battling the heat of summer when you have back pain as well could seem like a reason to turn on the AC and stay inside on your couch or bed. Hopefully these bits of information will help you use the summer weather as a tool to help relieve your pain while also avoiding the problems that may increase your pain during this season.
How weather affects pain levels
With summer in full swing, it is good to take a moment to be aware of our surroundings. Hot or cold temperatures, humidity, low pressure; many people with spinal problems are affected by weather changes.
Weather has a strange effect on pain. Since every person has a unique body and there are many sources of pain, any weather change may seem to cause increased pain in some while it brings relief for others. What are the major changes that occur in the summer?
- Pressure – Changes in barometric pressure are commonly linked with pain. This too has to do with inflammation. When there is high pressure in the atmosphere, it pushes on your skin and the liquids in your body to be smaller. Low pressure causes a slight increase in volume of those liquids. This increase in volume will push on bones and nerves in your body that do not change size depending on atmospheric pressure and can cause pain or increase pain levels. Luckily, summer months have a slight tendency to be high pressure and tend to have fewer shifts in pressure (storms) than spring.
- Humidity – Changes in humidity have also been linked to pain levels. The most researched link is with headaches. The results of those studies have mostly shown that changes in humidity could cause changes in pain levels, but it was not consistent where low or high humidity days would have higher pain levels because some patients had more pain with low humidity while others felt worse with high humidity.
For those who live in temperate climates, summer is the perfect time of year to re-engage in an appropriate outdoor exercise program to rehabilitate your back. Strong core body muscles, low impact aerobic exercises, and regular stretching are all key to keeping back pain at bay.
Most types of exercise can be done year round, but the smell of fresh air is usually better than the inside of your local gym. Sunlight and green grass are signs of encouragement to get out and make the best of a pleasant day. The warm weather also allows for access to exercise not available during the rest of the year.
- Swimming & Water Therapy – Consider the summer a time to get out to your local lakes, rivers, and outdoor pools for swimming and water exercise, which tend to be especially gentle exercise for your joints and back.
- Biking – For many with low back pain, biking is a good low impact form of exercise that is gentle on the lower back.
It is especially important to stay hydrated when exercising in the summer. Drinking 1-2 cups of water per hour and wearing sun block will reduce the rate of water loss and replenish your fluid level while outside. Drink an additional 1-2 cups per hour if you are actively exercising, even if it is swimming. Water hydration is especially important for people with disc problems as intervertebral discs benefit from staying hydrated sufficiently.
Source: www.spine-health.com; Jim Payseru; July 19, 2010.