Sciatica is most of the time a condition that is caused by one or more of five compressed nerves in the spine. This compression causes pain, numbness, tingling, and sometimes weakness throughout the run of the nerve. Sciatica is caused by the nerves in the lower back, or lumbar region, and can cause pain in the lower back, the buttock, and through each hip, leg and even the foot and toes. Many people who have Sciatica say that their pain becomes worse in cold weather, and is more severe than the pain they suffer in warm weather. Is this true for the condition though? Or is it merely anecdotal evidence that cannot be backed up by science?
There have been studies that support the theory that sciatica can be affected by the cold weather because cold weather does affect other types of pain. A study in Sweden that was published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health found that, from a sample size of 135,000 male construction workers, that those who worked in the cold had a higher rate of the lower back pain than their counterparts who worked in the warmth. This does indicate that pain is somehow connected to the cold. However, it does not offer specific answers for those who have sciatica who report increased pain in the winter, and if this winter pain is a general reality of the colder months or if it is affecting their sciatica.
There are some things that the cold does that affects the spine, and these things can inflame the symptoms of sciatica. To start, muscles do tense up in the cold, and any additional tension that you experience when you have sciatica can make your pain worse. Barometric pressure also can affect nerves that are overly sensitive, as are those in a patient who has sciatica. When air pressure goes down, or temperatures change dramatically then this can affect the nerves in the lower back.
Even though there is a correlation between cold weather and pain, as seen in the Swedish study mentioned above, it is always important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Cold weather might not be what is causing the additional pain that sciatica sufferers go through in winter, but rather the activities that must be completed in winter. Snow shoveling, walking on icy sidewalks, scraping down your car, and a myriad of other winter activities can cause a lot of strain on the lower back and the nerve endings in your lower back.
Most likely, pain that happens in the winter for patients who have sciatica is a combination of the cold weather itself and the activities that happen in winter that put a strain on the lower back. Some things that you can do to protect yourself include keeping warm, wearing proper shoes, shoveling safely or asking for help, and keeping active. The team at Dundas Chiropractic also recommends coming in to see us regularly so that we can monitor and treat your lower back pain, to keep you as comfortable as possible when the temperature starts to drop. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. There is no reason that you have to suffer in pain.