Every winter I see the same issues, trips and falls, lifting, carrying and over-reaching injuries, stiff muscles and poor circulation.
So, because I am a helpful little soul, here are my tips for winter..
Hydration - If you are anything like me, warm drinks are the order of the day in the cold weather and having grown up in the 1970's (we really only drank water mixed with tea, coffee and squash) - a nice warming drink is what I believe I need - and it makes me feel better. - Of course I know I need to drink plenty of water, but it is easy for this to slip when it is cold. When I come across others who like me, are disinclined towards cold drinks in cold weather I suggest they do what I do - have the warm drink - BUT make sure you drink a glass of water with it!
Circulation - Cold temperatures cause vasoconstriction. This is a natural defence mechanism that withdraws the blood supply from the superficial layers of the body to keep the vital organs and brain warm. The colder a body becomes, the more the blood supply is restricted to vital life preserving functions - staying still when cold - does NOT help!
So if you are reading this curled up on your sofa in front of a fire wondering why you still feel cold - get up and start moving around! GET your heart pumping and the circulation moving. Rub your arms, legs, face, neck, shoulders, hands and feet to encourage blood flow to your muscles and the surface of your skin. Your skin is medically referred to as the "integumentary system" is the largest organ in your entire body! - It IS an organ an extremely vital and diverse organ - it needs a good blood supply and when it is very cold you may need to be a bit more proactive about this!!
Activity is vital BUT - please be mindful that your circulation may need a little more stimulation this time of year! SO if you are going out running, ice-skating, playing football/rugby/hockey/netball - please remember to warm your muscles BEFORE you start to avoid pulled, strained and even torn muscles!!
Make sure you do your warm-ups - until you feel warm and supple and DO rub, slap and shake limbs to encourage good circulation and nerve stimulation. (Remember the vital role your gluts play in weight bearing exercise - slapping your own bottom might sound weird - but is a really good idea!)
Body Temperature - Prevention is always better than cure - so think in terms of keeping yourself warm rather than warming up once you are cold.
If you work in a modern office building the chances are that you will be in a carefully controlled heated environment. If on the other hand your work from home - you might be inclined to save money on heating your home during the day. You may be really busy but, if like most, this entails sitting in front of a computer screen all day, you may not notice how cold you are getting until you are suddenly really cold. - Make sure when working from home that you have warm socks and footwear on, a great deal of heat is lost through the feet and hands. If you have very thin or short hair a scarf, hat or hood is always a good idea - vital when you are outside, but also useful if you are sitting still for any length of time indoors.
If you realise you have got very cold - take a break from what you are doing, rub your head, hands, feet, neck and shoulders - or take a warm shower. Then wrap up warmly before continuing with your work. WHY? - well actually if you are sitting in front of your work feeling cold you are also likely to have your shoulders drawn up around your ears, your back is likely to be curled or leaning forward, your legs are probably tucked up in an unnatural position and within the next couple of days you will be wondering why you have woken up with a stiff neck, sore knee and back pain!!
What about those who work outside? - Well these guys probably already know the importance of staying warm in cold weather - but if this is new to you - understand why your older counterparts are wrapped in layers, wear hats, gloves, thick socks and boots. Stop hot food and drink are also important - but so is access to water!
Vitamin D - When the days are as short as they are this time of year, it is a real challenge to get enough vitamin D. Much has been said about the depressive effects of Vitamin D deficiency, but did you know muscular pain and injury has also been linked with Vitamin D deficiency? Try to get outside during the few hours of sunlight we get this time of year - 20 minutes per day is recommended and I don't mean in your car or in a shopping centre!! - Feed some ducks in the local park or shop at an outdoor market! It is of course hard to get sunlight this time of year so knowing that oily fish, milk, beef, liver and eggs are a good source of vitamin D may also be helpful!!
Trips, falls and over-reaching injuries. These are prevalent this time of year because the ground is slippery underfoot - muddy tracks, wet leaves, and icy footpaths.
Firstly please be careful of the ground under your feet and observe sensible lifting practices. BUT if you do happen to fall or feel a pulled muscle - get it looked at sooner rather than later. If you ignore it for a couple of days (or weeks) without treatment the condition can become much harder to resolve as compensatory patterns set in. By treatment I don't mean painkillers or over the counter muscle rubs these can be helpful, but often the area that is painful or inflamed is not the area that needs the most treatment. If you suffer a soft tissue injury the chances are you will need professional help - look for a good sports massage therapist, osteopath or physiotherapist and tell them everything you did in the week before the injury became obvious to you. By everything I mean include lifting, tripping, carrying, sitting twisted at work, or being curled up cold in front of your laptop!
Whatever you are doing during this cold spell - look after yourself and your body - "it is the greatest instrument you will ever own" (Mary Schmich - Wear Sunscreen).