Does Cold Weather Cause Back Pain?

Cold Weather Causes Back Pain

The colder months of the year bring a lot of exciting things: beautiful weather, an escape from the heat, fall sports, snow, holidays and more. However, they can also mean pain for people who struggle with consistent inflammation or spinal problems.

Sound like you? 

If you've spent time outdoors when temperatures are low, you may have felt that old, familiar twinge in your back start to flare up.

Many people believe that cold weather can cause or exasperate back pain and in this blog post, we’ll discuss whether or not that idea has any scientific merit and how you can keep your back from hurting during the fall and winter.

But first, we need to tackle the big question:

Does cold weather cause back pain?

In short, cold weather can cause back pain because it causes the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine to tighten. This can put strain on your spine and pull on the sensitive nerve roots exiting the spine, causing pain. 

Additionally, if joints are already inflamed, a drop in barometric pressure or temperature can cause swelling and pain.   

So there’s the short answer, but what does the science say?

While there has been some debate in the scientific community as to why cold weather causes back pain, there's really no debate around the fact that it occurs. Several major studies have proven that there is a real correlation between low temperatures and reports of pain.

For example, in 2012 a large study was conducted in Sweden on nearly 135,000 construction workers who spent several hours a day working in the cold (1).  

Researchers found that, when compared to people who spent most of their days working inside, the men who worked in colder temperatures had more reported instances of back and neck pain. 

A second study in Finland had very similar results as well (2).

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Atlantic Brain and Spine A graduate of both Yale and Stanford, Dr. Jae Lim is a board-certified spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic spine surgery, significantly reducing surgical impact and recovery times. (703) 876-4270
8501 Arlington Blvd. Suite 330
United States
Jae Y. Lim Ben L. Nguyen