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Brrrr! It’s Getting Cold Outside What That Means for Your Muscles by Jen Servidio

The fall days are turning cooler and with our clocks falling backward, the days are getting shorter. If you're a homeowner, you probably already have started making preparations for winter. But what about for our bodies? How are they affected by the changing of the seasons? How do we prepare ourselves for winter?

The first step is understanding that our muscles do not like to be cold. Have you ever tried to drive your car on a cold winter's morning without warming it up first? It does not make for a smooth ride at all. The same is true for muscles. Muscles operate best when there is a steady stream of blood flowing through the tissues. On colder days, our body will naturally try to preserve what heat it generates and focus that heat on our core. It doesn't really worry about the extremities because only the trunk of our body holds the major organs.

Stay Warm

When the body feels external cold, it starts to go into a survival mode, rather than worrying if all our muscles are getting adequate blood flow. This can result in aching, cramping and potential muscle spasms. One of the easiest ways to prepare our bodies for winter is to layer our clothing. Especially around the head and neck. By adding a scarf, or making sure jackets are zipped up tight, the potential for heat loss is lessened.

Why might these muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck be more sensitive to cold? It may not be a matter of sensitivity but perhaps one of overuse. The vast majority of people carry stress in this area. These muscles already are overworked because they constantly are in a state of contraction, whether someone realizes they are contracting them or not. During the cold weather, if those areas are exposed, the blood flow is lessened but the chronic contraction remains, resulting in a higher probability of cramping and muscles spasms.

Massage Helps the Muscles

Massage is a wonderful way to increase the blood flow to our muscle structures. Regular massage can help the muscles not only enjoy increased blood flow but reduce the chronic contracting that may be occurring in certain areas that are more prone to stress. And what is a better way to reduce stress during the holiday season or while having to deal with shoveling snow? Regular massage can help increase range of motion (to make shoveling snow easier), increase relaxation (to help maintain a peaceful feeling while attending large family gatherings) and promote better sleep habits (something we can all benefit from). So remember to wear that scarf when it's cold out and book your next massage soon. While you're at it, pick up a few gift cards this season for those you love.

Jen Servidio is a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Feel Better Bodyworks, located at 217 Rt. 303 in Valley Cottage. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact 721- 9643 or visit FeelBetterBodyworks.com.

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