Dealing with Aches and Pains in the Winter, by Thomas Kindl, MD, Blanchard Valley Pain Management
It’s that time of year when we dig out snow shovels out of storage and exchange our shorts for snowsuits. The frigid temperatures and snow-filled driveways can make this season one of the toughest on our backs and achy joints.
When shoveling those snowy driveways and sidewalks this winter, don’t forget to wear well-supported shoes with good traction to reduce the risk of a fall. Also, when lifting heavy snow, don’t forget to bend your knees and keep your back straight. If you must turn, pivot with your feet and do not twist your back.
If you do experience some extra aches and pains this season, here are a few tips to help you find needed relief:
- Apply cold. Icing the area for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours can reduce pain and swelling.
- Consider moist heat. For chronic pain and stiffness, applying heat to the area can increase blood flow and relax the muscles. Apply heat to the area for 20 minutes and then let the site rest for 20 minutes. Alternating heat and cold can also be soothing and beneficial to areas of inflammation.
- Applying braces and elastic bandages can help add support and minimize swelling.
- For pain in an extremity, positioning the injured area above the level of the heart when sitting or lying down can reduce inflammation.
- Stretch and strength. Gentle mobility can stimulate healing and, when tolerated, exercising can increase flexibility and muscle strength.
- Taking Tylenol and/or anti-inflammatory medication (after consulting with a physician) can also help reduce pain.