Cold Weather And Sciatica

Sciatica is an incredibly common condition. According to Spine-Health, between 10-40% of the population will experience sciatica at some point in their life. 

Many people we talk to with sciatica swear their pain worsens when the temperatures drop. Is cold weather and sciatica pain just a coincidence or is there solid evidence to support the increased pain? It’s a little of both, but before we get into the reasoning, we want to take a moment to refresh you on what sciatica is.

Sciatica is a term used to describe the symptoms of leg pain, tingling, and numbness or weakness originating in the lower back to the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. It is not a condition, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Three of the most common causes of sciatica are a bulging disc, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.

Cold weather and sciatica

Recently there have been two large studies that suggest cold weather could have an effect on sciatica pain. Both studies found that participants working outdoors in colder temperatures were more likely to report neck or back pain than those working in warmer conditions.

There are a few reasons those working in colder temperatures experience pain more frequently. Colder weather causes your muscles to stiffen, making them more susceptible to injury. The added tension on your muscles can also exacerbate your existing pain.

Another likely cause could be a drop in air pressure before a storm or drastic temperature change. The change in air pressure can irritate the nerves in your lower back that are already sensitive.

Colder weather can also mean more physical stress on the body. Whether the stress is due to shoveling snow, lifting heavy bags of salt, or a slip on the ice, it can affect your sciatica.

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Prevent sciatica pain

Take the following precautions to help manage your sciatica.

  • Keep warm – dress in layers, turn up the thermostat, warm up your car a few minutes before going outside
  • Wear shoes or boots with a deep thread
  • Stretch before activity
  • Stay active

Now that we’ve discussed the relationship between cold weather and sciatica, we’d like to know if it affects your pain. If it does, try to implement the tips above to help manage your pain. 

This post should not be taken as professional medical advice. If you or a loved one is suffering from sciatica, we urge you to seek professional medical help. Use the Find a Doctor tab on our website to find a board-certified surgeon at Nebraska Spine Hospital.

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