Cold weather changes our posture causing aches and pains, but how can you tell if it is angina?
Having poor posture when it is cold can contribute to aches and pains in the same areas that people complain of angina discomfort. When the cold weather hits many cardiac rehabilitation patients begin having complaints of discomfort that is felt between the shoulder blades, neck pains and chest discomfort. It is tough to tell the difference for many between angina and muscular skeletal pain.
Let talk about posture
What is your posture when you are cold? Do you pull your shoulders up to your ears, roll your shoulders and neck forward to hide in the warmth of our clothes or chair? Do you cross your arms shortening the chest muscles and hold them in these positions for prolonged periods of time? All of these can cause the muscles to spasm and give sensations of pain. Remember most of the time angina pains follow the same pattern, but as with anything human it can change. So your angina should usually present the same way, if it is in the chest or arms, then expect angina to primarily present this way.
This posture held for any prolonged pain will cause upper back discomfort, neck pain, possibly chest and arm discomfort.
So is it angina?
Well lets review first what angina is.
Angina may feel like pressure, squeezing, or heaviness in your chest. The pain also can occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina pain may even feel like indigestion.
Stable angina is the most common type of angina. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual. Stable angina has a regular pattern. (“Pattern” refers to how often the angina occurs, how severe it is, and what factors trigger it.) Stable angina usually presents itself with exercise, after eating large meals, emotional stress, and a cold environment such as exertion in the cold air.
If you have stable angina, you can learn its pattern and predict when the pain will occur. The pain usually goes away a few minutes after you rest or take your angina medicine.
Stable angina isn’t a heart attack, but it suggests that a heart attack is more likely to happen in the future.
Unstable angina doesn’t follow a pattern. It is a change from your usual angina pattern, it is when angina occurs more often and may be more severe than stable angina. Angina occurring while resting is considered unstable angina, or when it occurs with lighter amounts of workload or effort than usual. If it takes more nitroglycerin than usual to relieve the discomfort, or nitro doesn’t relieve it at all than that too is considered unstable angina. Rest may not relieve the pain.
Unstable angina is very dangerous and requires emergency treatment. This type of angina is a sign that a heart attack may happen soon.
Skeletal Muscular Symptoms
Can be reproduced by touching the area with symptoms and creating pain. You can’t touch your heart, but you can touch your chest, arms, back and jaw. If you touch it and it hurts that is a sign of muscular skeletal symptoms. Can you move a certain way and cause the discomfort to either show up or go away? This too is less likely to be related to the heart.
Does stretching or improving your posture help the symptoms? Consider adding a small pillow to the low back area of your favorite chair, desk and car this forces your upper body to maintain better posture. Widening and opening up the chest. If you note you have had very poor posture try the chest stretches below.
Be fluid in your upper body movement
Allow your arms to swing when walking, wiggle those shoulders and neck. Dress warm enough that you can maintain good posture. Wiggle your hips, consciously think about your body. Is it stiff and tight? If so loosen up, relax, stretch, workout.
If you cannot tell the difference and suspect you are having angina, follow your care plan established by your health care practitioner, and if necessary seek medical attention. If the symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, profuse sweating, lightheaded, dizzy contact your healthcare provider ASAP or call 911.