Winter is here, and the change in weather takes a toll on the body for sure! The cold, dry air can affect your sinuses, your bones, muscles, circulation and energy levels.
Have you ever considered how the cold weather affects your spine?
I’ve got a few very simple tips to help you get through winter while keeping your spine healthy.
1. Drink water.
I find myself reminding my clients all the time that even in winter we need to hydrate with plenty of water. Maybe it’s cold out, maybe we aren’t sweating as much as in the summer, but the dry air pulls moisture from the body just the same.
You can feel it in your skin, hair, nasal passages…and maybe even in your spine.
Yes, lack of water in the body can compromise your intervertebral discs in your spine!
The discs are made up of mostly water and don’t have their own blood supply. They rely on movement and the presence of water in the body in order to stay healthy.
Every single day, as we move around, the pressure of gravity actually compresses the discs, slowly pressing and squeezing the water from them. When the body is dehydrated, often the discs become compromised. This puts the spine at risk for injury, especially if you already have vulnerable spots where old aches and pains due to other injuries have occurred.
👉🏼The good news is that drinking water not only helps keep the discs healthy and your spine happy, it also increases your energy levels, improves the quality of your skin and helps improve your immune function.
Here are some things to remember:
1. Drinking water away from your meals increases absorption and improves digestion.
2. Try to drink water, plain and simple. Don’t count coffee, tea or soft drinks as hydration.
3. A great time to drink water is first thing in the morning, before your coffee or tea.
Personally since I crave hot drinks, (and would drink coffee all day if it was good for my spine) I find that drinking hot water with some lemon and honey helps with not feeling cold all the time and actually increases my circulation, which makes me feel more like moving….which leads me to my next tip which is….
There are so many good reasons to exercise, from the mental health benefits to maintaining a healthy heart and strong bones.
And in the winter, nothing feels better or boosts my mood than a good sweaty workout (especially if I can get outside!)
But as a Pilates and ELDOA teacher I get really picky about the details of how my clients move. Especially if there is pain or injury.
If you’ve been following any of my posts, you know I’m obsessed with good quality movement over quantity.
Good quality movements are a big deal, actually. Moving the spine carefully is something many people don’t think about unless and until they feel pain.
The spine is a good example. When we are stiff, we tend to move the spine in “chunks”. The discs within the chunk need to stretch and move, even if just a little bit, because this is how discs stay hydrated. As I mentioned earlier, they depend on good quality movements to pull water into them. Any movement is good for this purpose, even just going for a walk.
Taking the time to do small articulations in your joints to mobilize and lubricate them is important because this will help to create more specific, articulated, aligned movements that will prevent injuries in the long run.
This principle of articulation can be for any joint in the body, from head to toe, because there are many areas where “chunks” of movement occur and can cause injury over time.
This is why Pilates is so great for the body.
Pilates IS quality movement….it teaches articulation and correct joint movements and breaking apart the movement “chunks” in the tight spots to heal and prevent injury.
ELDOA works well for this too, as it helps to release compression by making space for the discs using facial tension and strength from your own muscles.
Aside from movement, it’s important to note that water also is more able to be drawn into the discs when the pressure of gravity is completely released from the spine, as when we are lying down…..which brings me to my next tip….
If you are not getting enough sleep, you probably know it. You can eat nothing but kale and work out at the gym and meditate for hours every day, but if you aren’t getting the right amount of sleep for your body, nothing else that you do for your health matters much.
Here is your reminder to prioritize your sleep!
It’s the one time your body can shut down and heal, rejuvenate and cleanse itself.
This is especially true in the winter months when the nights are longer and the body seems to crave more sleep.
We are wired for more sleep in winter.
Our mental health, energy levels, ability to focus, metabolism, mood, and immune response all depend on your body getting adequate sleep.
And yes, a healthy spine needs adequate rest to rehydrate its discs.
As I mentioned above, when there is no gravity pressing on the discs, (e.g. when we are lying down) it gives the discs an opportunity to draw water into themselves. This is why we are generally slightly taller in the mornings (and sometimes after Pilates!) We need sleep to support the body on so many levels.
These are all very basic tips and they always apply no matter what the season.
But in winter, they are especially important and can make a difference in how we get through these cold months.
👉🏼 If you need some guidance on how to articulate your joints with an easy set of movements, my Morning Wakeup Warmup series is here for that. It is FREE and you can click here for instant access >> Click for Free Morning Wakeup Warmup
👉🏼 If you are ready to experience an intro to the combination of Pilates and ELDOA where I go over the details of basic Pilates and how to elongate the spine, click right here to access the Bundle.