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What does colder weather mean for your body?

November 17, 2015



Hello, again, and welcome back!  


Can you believe how quickly this year has flown by?  Spring zipped right by, summer passed in a blur, autumn is well underway and winter is just around the corner.  But more than just the trees, animals and temperatures are affected by the changing of the seasons; your body feels the effects in a number of ways as well.  Recent research hints at why and looking at that  may, in turn, change the type of bodywork you will benefit from the most. 


In May 2015, the University of Cambridge released results of a study designed to look at the possibility that there is a relationship between the changing seasons and the body’s immune function.  A BBC Health article sums it up well, despite some errors in reporting statistics.  (For those of you that enjoy the more in-depth reports, you can find the original article as it was published in the Nature Communications journal right here.) 


In short, it appears that, although the immune system receives a bit of a kickstart during winter months when we are more contract a common cold or the flu, that bit of extra oomph can have other less desirable results.  For example, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis may be more prone to flare-ups as the immune system ramps up.  Depending on the condition and severity of the body’s reaction, Swedish massage may not be appropriate but a different type of work such as craniosacral therapy or reiki could be effective.  


Increased activity of the immune system isn’t the only factor to consider when thinking about how the changing seasons might impact your choice of bodywork.  Past injuries, wear-and-tear issues like osteoarthritis, and routine muscle aches can be exacerbated by colder weather suggesting a warm stone session or some added heat would be beneficial.  


Fluid intake is also going to be important; when it is colder out, people tend to be less vigilant about drinking enough water.  That can result in gastrointestinal upsets, headaches and additional stress on important organs like the kidneys.  The National Institutes of Health discusses the potential dangers of dehydration further in this article.  Depending on the level of stress the body is undergoing, a more gentle massage may be in order.  Reiki is always a fantastic option, Swedish massage can be extremely relaxing and craniosacral work tends to be much more gentle.  


Several conditions that are typically worsened by the winter months - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), anxiety and depression, to name a few - can almost always benefit from multiple types of bodywork.  These instances typically involve a certain level of lethargy which can be countered with an invigorating massage and the more relaxing types of work can provide much-needed degree of support.  


Additional seasonal considerations relating to massage can be found in Cindy Williams’ article “The Changing Seasons of Bodywork”, on page 6 in the August 2015 edition of The Massage Therapy Journal’s ePublication BodySense.  As always, we recommend talking to your massage therapist and/or your primary care physician if you have any concerns about getting massage.  Our therapists are also able to speak with your primary care physician about be pros and cons of massage, provided they have your permission to do so. 


Until we see you again, bundle up, be well and enjoy Fall!




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