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Beware the common cold as we head into the winter season

Runny nose, sore throat, wanting to stay in bed for longer, extra tight shoulders and neck, outside suddenly seems dangerous to go out, ah winter must be approaching.

The temperature has dropped and our motivation, the little motivation that we did have, has dropped too, making us stay indoors longer, possibly sipping on that pumpkin spiced latte in a crowded coffee shop. But it’s not just the warm, small, overcrowded spaces that bacteria love to grow and attack and harm our body, winter time actually has a bad effect on our health.

Why does the cold weather mean more colds?

Your mum may have told you staying out in the cold will get you sick, and you thought that’s just an old wives’ tale, but she was onto something. The cooler temperature results in a “sluggish immune response”. Immune cells’ responses are weaker under cold conditions. Moreover, the lack of sunshine can lead to weakened immune system too. T-cells (also known as killer cells, as they are very effective in killing infections and diseases) seek out vitamin D in order to activate and do their job. But if they cannot find enough vitamin D, they fail to activate and leave us vulnerable. The colder weather also makes the body secrete more mucus, even if you’re not sick. The increased mucus can also be a great transport medium for bacteria and viruses.

So cold temperature and end of summer time can make us more prone to illness, sounds grim, but what else?

In cold weather the body goes through few changes to help keep the body warm, but it comes with a price. Muscles tighten up to constrict the blood vessels in the arms, neck and shoulder blades, to decrease heat loss from the limbs and body periphery. It is also common for you to lift and hold your shoulders tightly, slouch, poke your chin forward, to keep warm but these changes in posture can lead to pain. These muscles are also held in a shortened, tight state for longer, which can increase our perception of pain.

Everything sounds so bad, does it not? But you can also do many things to help get through these colder times.

  • Wear warmer clothes (even when indoors), especially cover your neck and shoulder area well with scarves or jackets with collars.
  • Warm up the neck and shoulder area with a warm water bottle (with caution)
  • Avoid being curled up, hunched over, or generally “bad” posture
  • Move and stretch your shoulders regularly, turning your shoulders round and round does the job.
  • Go for brisk 15 minute walks regularly, wrapped in warm clothing. Do not be afraid of the cold.
  • Swim in a heated pool, or even book in for a spa or a massage.
  • Get your favourite cuppa out and put your feet up, relax.

At Richmond Osteopaths, we understand your aches and niggles. So book in for a treatment to get you through this winter.

By: HP

Hwapyeong Shon aka HP