I received a beautiful, soft, warm scarf for Christmas, and it’s become a staple of my wardrobe. Keeping warm is one of the best ways to prevent the pesky trigger points in my neck from acting up, so I wrap myself in a scarf every time I go outside or even when it’s cold inside. Here are some tips for you to avoid cold weather aches and pains. My next article will expand with more ideas related to biomechanics.
Trigger points are tight bands or knots in a muscle that get activated and create a specific pain pattern. The pain may be distant to the originating muscle, and then can cause a trigger point in that muscle with a cascade effect of soreness. Many things can activate or perpetuate the points, including poor body mechanics, overuse, and cold. Here’s a great website with self-care information, http://www.pressurepositive.com/infocenter/myofascial-trigger-points.asp.
Once activated, a trigger point can trigger a chain of pain, so you’re better off to prevent them in the first place. Tip #1 is to stay warm. You might think that going from the house to car doesn’t require bundling up; after all it’s only a couple of minutes until the car heater kicks in. However, that’s enough time to cause a cranky muscle that will be easily activated by some other activity. The answer? A scarf wound around your neck.
When you get to the office or back home, keep the scarf on until the room warms up. As the temperature fluctuates in my office, I’ve been putting my lovely, red scarf on and off. And during winter storms, when the electricity goes out, remember to keep your neck covered. We often get under blankets that leave the neck unprotected. Sleeping in a turtleneck may be the answer.
Trigger points also get activated in the hips. If you are susceptible to hip pain, wear a jacket that covers your derriere when you go in the cold. You might assume that going for a walk will warm these muscles, but like the trip from house to car, it can take many minutes for the blood flow to reach all parts of the gluteus maximus (which doesn’t really get worked too much when walking on level ground anyway).
Even though we live in the temperate Pacific Northwest, we still need heavy jackets, hats, gloves, and scarves to keep our muscles healthy. Plan your winter wardrobe accordingly to stay warm and keep the trigger points at bay.