Submitted by Josie Runyan, DC
NorthLakes Community Clinic
Winter in the Northwoods presents a challenge to our health that is physical and emotional. In this column, I will share strategies I use to keep myself, patients, and loved ones healthy throughout the long chill.
Winter sports are a wonderful way to enjoy the winter, shout out to everyone involved in making our beloved Birkie happen year after year, but I’m here to share some strategies for folks who do not like to be outdoors in the cold.
One of the most obvious changes in the season is the shorter hours of sunlight during the winter. Vitamin D is a nutrient used for the upkeep of many systems in the body. It is needed for strong bones, and healthy brains, and is a protective antioxidant. With less sunshine available to us in the winter months, it may be a good idea to supplement this powerful nutrient. Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about Vitamin D for your health.
This time of year patients come into the office with their shoulders up next to their ears and don’t even realize they are doing it. Sound familiar? The cold makes our muscles tighten up close to our core and shiver to generate warmth. If muscles are too tight for too long regular motion is compromised. Helping the muscles lengthen and relax keeps normal tension in the body. My favorite way to do this is with a sauna session. Like the Finnish people, I am a passionate advocate for the benefits of saunas. The all-encompassing heat relaxes muscles and is good for the cardiovascular system. Preparing for the sauna and taking time to go can be calming and keep you in the present moment. During the sauna, you leave your worries (and phones) at the door.
The old myth of losing a large percentage of body heat, up to 75%, from a cold head is kind of true. While the number is not nearly as high as the myth claims (it is more like 40%) it is still onto something. In acupuncture, the word Qi or Chi (Chee) is the body’s vital energy force. It is thought that wearing a scarf protects the loss of Qi in the cold and makes the body more resilient.
Movement of the body is key to keeping healthy joints and muscles. During the winter we often go from bed to the car to sitting in a chair all day. It takes a lot of willpower to bundle up and go on a walk in the dark when the day is done. One way to move the body without powering through the elements is to turn on some of your favorite music and dance a little. You don’t have to be a great dancer, the point is to move and stretch your joints (and maybe have some fun). Even better is to join an exercise class. Taking a class allows you to make a scheduled habit of exercising each week. Another benefit of taking a class is being around others.
A nice cup of tea is hydrating and can provide nutrients and flavor to your day. Having a nicely stocked tea selection can soothe ailments all across the board from peppermint for a sore throat to ginger for digestive troubles. A staple to have available is a tea blend that is tuned toward immune support. Tea is a nice alternative to ciders and hot chocolate because it contains much less added sugar.
Chiropractic- Immune support
Chiropractic adjustments keep your nervous system working optimally. The nervous system controls every function in your body and is housed within the spine. You can imagine this like electrical cords coming from a power source to an appliance, the connections need to be good for it to work. Making sure the spine is aligned helps the nervous system function to support your health.
Boredom and overdoing screen time are easy to do in the winter. At my home, we try to have a least one day a week where we play card games or board games. Games allow the brain to be dynamic and react move by move. This is a great way to keep up cognitive function long term and have some quality time with family and friends. Cribbage is a clear Northwood’s favorite.
Please know we are all unique and these are general advice tools that may not be helpful for everyone. But, I do hope some of these can help you and your family endure the cold months until the loons return!
Josie Runyan is a Chiropractor at our Hayward Clinic. She is currently accepting new patients and no referral is necessary. NorthLakes Community Clinic also has Chiropractic care in Ashland, Hayward, Iron River, Lakewood, Marinette, Minong, Park Falls, and Turtle Lake.