The Posture of Cold

Now that it is cold outside, what are the positional movements that we hold to generate warmth?


My immediate thoughts go to levator scapulae and upper traps, which are the muscles that bring your shoulder up to your ears. How often and how long do you bring your shoulders up to your ears when you are cold? Or fold your arms over your chest and hunch over when you are outside in the cold without a coat? We do these things often without even realizing it. Ultimately our body is attempting to generate heat, but could these actions be causing us more pain and discomfort? I remember when I was younger going to school in the winter, not wanting to wear a jacket, hat or gloves. Being without those things was somehow cool? No pun intended. Or maybe it was inconvenient, or perhaps I just wasn’t cold? Young people can be little furnaces when it comes to metabolism and generating heat. Well, not so much today. Gloves, scarves, coats are necessary for me today. I have become acutely aware of how tight my muscles can get especially in the winter time.


Cooler weather can create considerable muscle tightness. Why is this? First off, muscles are temperature sensitive. Cooler muscles are stiffer. Seems obvious but when combined with longer term static holding (the stressor of being cold), that could be a recipe for discomfort that hangs around a while. Especially for people who suffer with certain types of arthritis and/or pathologies that make people more sensitive to cold. Secondly, the barometric pressure changes will have an effect on joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, creating more pain and discomfort. Next, is lack of movement. We are in doors more and we are less likely to be exercising or doing things outside. Unless we have a schedule and a plan or habit in place many of us will slow down and not move a whole lot. Lack of movement can lead to more joint and soft tissue tightness. Lastly, as we age, all of the things I mentioned can come into play and add in the slow decline of collagen and muscle mass that happens as we age, it’s a recipe for trouble. Good news is there are many things we can do to shift this! Yay Wear warm clothing outside and inside! Keeping warm outside and inside is key. Wearing a light scarf around your neck or hips can help keep you warm. While we work on managing heating cost with lowering our thermostats, put on a sweater or sweatshirt. Exercise! There is no one size fits all for excercise. Do what you like and look forward to doing. Dance, yoga, pilates, jogging, cycling. There are so many ways to move. Movement will raise your body temperater and keep you feeling warmer. Sauna! One of my favorites. A sit in a sauna can be a soothing addition to your excersise routine, or could be used as a stand-alone warm up time. Hot packs! One of the things I do for myself in the winter is to heat up a hot pack in the microwave, then put it under the blankets in my bed so when I'm ready for sleep, the bed is so cozy. Or you can simply drape one over yor shoulders, instant warmth! Massage! The movement of muscles and blood will create warmth then add a table warmer and this will help with warmth and relaxation. However, when the body relaxs over time, it is not uncommon for the body temperature to go down. You may feel quite warm during your session and cooler afterwards. Make sure you layer up for the trip to and from your appointment! Paraffin Treatments! I have written on the many benefits of paraffin dips in my blog before. I highly recommend this addition to a massage treatment, especailly if you're older, or have arthritis. What tricks do you use in the winter to get the cold out of your bones?


Levator Scapulae Origin: transverse processes of C1-4 Insertion: Upper part of medial border of scapula Action: Raises medial border of scapula Symptoms:

  • Pain in the corner of the neck

  • Stiff Neck

  • Torticollis

  • Unable to turn head fully

  • Difficulty turning head to see behind

Perpetuating Factors:

  • Over use

  • Carrying a heavy bag on shoulder

  • Poor positioning of head and shoulders/arms at sleep, work, strenuous exercise

  • Cold Weather


Upper Trapezius Origin: back of the head, aka; superior nuchal line and the external occipital protuberance of the occipital bone Insertion: posterior border of the lateral third of the clavicle Action: Raises scapula, lateral flexion of the head and neck Symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck

  • Stiff Neck

  • Torticollis

  • Unable to turn head fully

  • Difficulty turning head to see behind

  • Headaches

Perpetuating Factors:

  • Over use

  • Carrying a heavy bag on shoulder

  • Poor positioning of head and shoulders/arms at sleep, work, strenuous exercise

  • Cold Weather

 


With nearly 20 years of massage therapy experience, small business ownership, and years of injury recovery as a Physical Therapist Assistant, Linda Addario is a highly sought after Licenced Massage Therapist in the Capital District of New York. She is hard at work partnering with her clients to reach and maintain wellness goals at the Bodyworks Wellness Center, teaching continuing education classes at the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy, and mentoring up and coming massage therapists to improve and grow their practices.

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