The heat has arrived, and everybody is feeling it. What one may not know they’re feeling are the effects of the high air pressure system that comes with the heat on their bones and joints. Dr. James Stirton, of Winters Family Chiropractic, breaks down weather pressure and how its effects go beneath the skin.
Stirton explained the air pressure systems that coincide with the weather as a mass of air that reaches up to the edge of the stratosphere. This air has weight to it, and the high/low aspect of each air pressure system determines how much weight is pressing down on people — and their bones and joints.
“That air has weight and can create more pressure on our backs and spines. So, I get an increased number of weight-bearing joint complaints around this time of year from having such a heavier pressure over people,” said Stirton. “At the same time, people tend to be out and about doing more activities with the nice weather. So, that’s more weight bearing activity on top of having more atmospheric weight on them and that will cause spinal compression and pain in your discs.”
One can feel that extra pressure on a hot day. Perhaps by the pool or simply walking down the street, the lethargy or heaviness one feels is the extra air pressure. Of course, with low pressure systems come different effects on one’s body.
“High pressure compresses the joints, causes discs to bulge more and joints to lock up harder and causes tissue to be a little more laxed,” said Stirton. “With low pressure is the exact opposite. It causes joints to expand and if it’s already a swollen joint, it’s got no room to expand and it’s going to swell shut and get tight and might be very severe. So, I see complaints based on the weather quite a bit, and it’s not just the temperature. Temperature is just a byproduct of what the air mass is all about.”
With the recent high weather systems bearing overhead, Stirton said he has seen similar types of aches and pains from his working-class patients. He addresses this fact as well as misconceptions on the effects of standing or sitting all day at work.
“Half of my patients are standing all day and the other half are sitting and both postures are compression. It’s a common misconception that sitting is a recovery position for your body, but it’s actually more pressure on your discs than standing is because of how you compress your back when you’re sitting. When you’re standing, all your joints are in function to bear your weight efficiently,” Stirton said. “What I see is hard-working people who’re standing most of their shift and then go home and crash into a chair. That just strains their back in a different position. So, these complaints come out more when there’s high pressure and it tells us we’re meant to have a good stretch in our tissues to keep them healthy.”
Lifestyle also comes into play when it comes to bone and tissue compression. Beyond the air pressure, Stirton analogizes tissue pains with folding jeans. Yes — they’re strong and durable, but if one keeps folding them over and over again, they will eventually crease and weaken. One simply needs to be more mindful of the repetitive motions and resting positions they’re in every day and change it up with intermittent stretching and laying down on their back. Thankfully now, one can also be more mindful of the pressure systems overhead as well.
Stirton has been dealing out decompression therapy for his patients and maintains that when it comes to joint and muscle pain, ice is nice, but stretch is best.
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It’s like the good doctor always says, “If you’re not certain, ask Dr. Stirton.”