Autumn, the season of cold, damp and mists...
Posted on 2nd December 2020 at 07:28
Every year about this time – give or take a week or two depending on the weather (!) – we have a flurry of calls from Clients with Sciatica. It’s a topic we’ve written about before and can be found here.
It’s always a sign that Autumn has arrived, with its cooler and damper weather; often with a nippy north or easterly wind thrown in for good measure. Not surprisingly, this unwelcome trio is guaranteed to stir up any muscular or skeletal problems; although Sciatica always seems to be top of the list, quickly followed by Arthritis and Rheumatism.
Why is this?
Well, despite Sciatica, Arthritis and Rheumatism being different conditions – with their own particular symptoms and causes – they all share the same triggers we’ve already alluded to. Cold, damp and a chilly wind. These all have the same effect, chilling the body, often before we’ve realised what’s happening. Then, once the tissues and muscles have started to chill, it’s easy for the coldness to spread deeper into the body core. And we should say that, when we’re talking about chilling, it doesn’t take more than a slight drop in body temperature to start triggering – or aggravating – these conditions.
This is why they’re all described as “cold damp” conditions in Acupuncture, which is an easy way to remember all the things you can do at home to help yourself. In other words, warm your body up (!).
It’s also a great excuse for this week’s picture, featuring the Japanese Macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys. If you haven’t come across them before, these very clever monkeys enjoy a soak in their local hot springs during the Winter to help ward off the effects of sub zero temperatures in their mountain home. The only downside being that, here in the UK, hot springs are in rather short supply…
The first – and easiest – thing to do is to warm the area up. A hot water bottle or heat blanket will usually do the trick, as well as being very soothing and comforting. While it may be stating the obvious – well, to us at least (!) – this needs to be done on an ongoing basis. ie, several times a day until an improvement starts to be seen AND THEN continued past the time the problem seems to have been resolved.
You’d be amazed how many times we hear a Client saying they’ve done it once and nothing seems to have changed, so haven’t done it anymore. While it would be lovely for things to resolve that quickly, it’s all too easy to forget that problems don’t just suddenly appear. In reality, they’ve been lurking in the background for some time, and so warming up the area once is unlikely to resolve the problem once and for good.
And, talking about warmth, ginger tea is a very soothing and warming drink – as in a piece of fresh ginger steeped in boiling water, with honey as a sweetener if needed. Ginger is well known in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for warming the interior of the body, hence it being great for these conditions.
Which brings us on to the Japanese Macaques and their good example of a soak. However, with hot springs being in rather short supply in the UK (!), the next best thing is warm bath with a handful of Epsom Salts or Sea Salt. As you may remember, these both contain magnesium, which helps soothe and relax muscles. It’s also another easy way to help draw heat deeper into the body. And don’t forget to wrap up warmly afterwards, so all the good work isn’t instantly undone…
It’s also important to make sure the area concerned is kept warm generally which, again, is obvious to us but not always Clients (!). Especially making sure there aren’t any gaps in the clothing around the middle – or elsewhere (!) – where the cold, damp and wind can get in and do its worst. The old fashioned solution of a vest or thermals can really help with this. And talking about old fashioned solutions, for those with Arthritis in the wrists and hands, a warm muff can be a real boon in the winter months. Think of those pictures of Victorian ladies with their hands kept lovely and warm by a fluffy muff.
Now for one that isn’t so obvious. Gently stretching the area concerned. While it’s quite natural to want to protect the area, this really is one of the worst things you can do.
Why? For the simple reason that cold, damp and a chilly wind all cause the muscles to shorten or contract. While this helps to protect the area, so preventing any damage – or further damage – longer term, it just makes matters worse. So, gentle mobilising stretches several times a day can really help, with the emphasis on gentle (!). It also encourages blood into the area, helping to warm it up too. Again, doing gentle stretches on an ongoing basis will help to speed things on their way, as well as reducing the chance of a recurrence.
Following on from this – with the same caveat as before (!) – is keeping active. Remaining in one position for too long will only make things worse. Whether sitting, standing or laying down. This is particularly the case for sitting, which shortens all the muscles and can mean people struggle to get vertical. For Sciatica, laying on the floor is often the most comfortable position, with a heat pad or hot water bottle under the lower back.
And, before we finish for today, two other quick tips.
A firm mattress is by far the best option for any musculo skeletal issues, as it provides much better support all round. While memory foam and softer mattresses sound good in theory, they simply don’t provide the necessary support, regardless of whether you have a problem or not. Similar comments apply to the chair you usually sit in, whether at home or work. And don’t forget the seat in your car.
Which just leaves one thing that’s guaranteed to make any muscular or skeletal problem much worse, but is usually overlooked. It’s our old friend, dehydration, which causes muscles to shorten and contract. So, you know what’s coming next (!). Making sure you drink plenty of water will help, particularly if painkillers or anti inflammatories are being taken, as these both require water to process them – if that’s the right word (!) – and then detox them from the body.
Once again, it’s all about a little forethought and common sense. There are always things you can do at home to help yourself, as well as to help prevent the problem appearing in the first place.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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