The onset of cold weather typically brings with it flu season and respiratory infections.
Change of seasons is cleansing, which is some of what we are experiencing – strengthening our immune systems when we catch a virus, the flu, or a respiratory infection. However, if we don’t take care of ourselves these viruses and bacteria can become more harmful than we would like.
Upper respiratory infections, both viral and bacterial, are one of the most common reasons for doctor visits in the cold months. So are ear infections as well as other things that are not infections, like arthritis, allergies, eczema, ear pain, ringing in the ears, neck pain, headaches, stiff muscles and joints, Seasonal Affective Disorder and more. So how the heck do we stay healthy?
In addition to eating healthy, it is crucial to move the body in order to maximize the movement of lymph, blood and cerebral spinal fluid throughout the body. Exchange of various fluids throughout the body must occur for optimal health. So of course, exercise is super important. But something else of which some people may not be aware, is the relationship between the hips and pelvis and the head.
First of all, basic anatomy shows us that the intrinsic muscles and connective tissue of the back (as well as others) span from the sacrum, all the way up to the cranium (See Figure 1). This alone creates a physical attachment and relationship between each bone all the way from the coccyx to the head. Logically, then, we can reason that if things are "off" in the pelvis, then they're "off" in our heads... and vice versa.
By Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below)Bartleby.com: Gray's Anatomy, Plate 389, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32219581
Aside from the physical muscle attachments, there is intrinsic movement of the cranial bones which is communicated throughout the whole body. The cranium is made up of many bones which approximate each other at places called sutures. At these sutures, there is movement of the cranial the bones - sort of an oscillation, back and forth motion (that is initiated by an intelligent force – definitely a good topic for a future blog post) (See Figure 2).
Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below) Bartleby.com: Gray's Anatomy, Plate 188
For optimal health there should be freedom of movement of the cranial bones, but sometimes they get stuck or their movement is restricted. This lack of movement or mal-position of a cranial bone is "noticed" by the whole body. We can actually see and feel this effect pretty clearly in the hips and pelvis. Oftentimes, it's the first place we notice problems - back, hip or pelvic pain or other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, urinary problems, adrenal dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, menstrual and premenstrual problems, and much more.
Likewise, if the hips and pelvis are out of line for any reason, this can be sensed all the way up into the cranium. If freedom of motion of the cranial bones is compromised it can lead to other problems that may cause symptoms in the head, such as headaches, muscle tension, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, ear pain, eustachian tube dysfunction, sinus congestion, changes in vision, the sensation of brain fog or fullness in the head, neck pain, depression and many other things.
As mentioned above, during the colder weather and change of seasons from hot to cold can be a little stressful on the body. For this reason it is really important to continue exercising throughout the colder months. It’s also crucial to do a stretching routine on a regular basis. Keeping the lumbar spine (low back), hips and pelvis flexible and loose will help the cranium maintain freedom of motion. If the cranium maintains freedom of motion, then homeostasis (balance and stability) is a more likely outcome for the entire body.
Change of season from summer to fall and into winter typically brings with it viruses and infections, as noted above. This creates a lot of head and neck issues that arise from upper respiratory infections (as well as the lower respiratory infections), such as lymph nodes swelling, sinus congestion, coughing, asthma, tight neck and facial muscles due to squinting and shivering.
The short, dark days during the winter can cause something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of chronic unhappiness. Chronic frowning and squinting of the eyebrows can cause further tension in the face and scalp, causing further problems in the cranium which may then translate down to the low back, hips and pelvis.
Chronic frowning and squinting of the eyebrow can also change the amount and behavior of neurotransmitters in our brain (a good topic for another article), also contributing to depression, anxiety and chronic unhappiness.
The good news is, we can change all of this! I'd like to show you some easy stretches to do on a daily basis that can help loosen the hips, pelvis and low back. In doing this, you are helping your entire body thrive.
There is so much more to say about this topic, which is why I invite you to ask me questions! This article is linked to my website, where you can contact me directly. Frequently asked questions will be posted to this blog for all to see.