If you live in North America, winter is now at your doorstep and temperatures are dipping across the country. Like it or not, the cold weather is here and probably won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Unfortunately for many suffering from nerve damage, the drop in temperature also ushers in an unwelcome increase in nerve pain.
Cold weather can affect the symptoms of nerve damage in various ways. Exposure to cold slows the flow of blood to the hands and feet as it tries to preserve the body’s core temperature. This reduction in blood flow to the extremities can lead to both increased pain and damage to the peripheral nerves. Exposure to cold can also cause the muscles to tighten and spasm – pulling on the nerves as they do and resulting in intensified pain in the affected areas.
So what can you do to limit cold weather’s effect on your nerves? Here are five simple steps you can take to minimize nerve pain and reduce cold weather’s effect on your quality of life this winter.
We already know caffeine is bad for neuropathy, but when the temperatures drop and the winter blues start to set in – that warm cup of coffee becomes very tempting. If possible, limit or eliminate caffeine from your diet. Caffeine constricts the blood vessels – thereby disrupting circulation and putting a strain on blood flow as it tries to reach your extremities. With your blood flow already under attack from the cold, caffeine merely exacerbates the problem.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
The holidays are a time to enjoy good company and good spirits – and like coffee in the example above – a little alcoholic drink to warm the soul becomes all the more tempting. Though a drink or two is probably ok, avoid drinking too much. Excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which can result in aggravated neuropathic pain.
Do Simple Stretches & Exercises
You don’t have to go to a gym to do simple stretches and exercises that can increase blood flow. In fact, there a number of easy exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine without even having to get off the couch or leave your desk. These exercises are especially important during the winter months because they promote good circulation as well as keep our muscles loose and relaxed. Here are a few resources with ideas for low-impact stretches or exercises you can do this winter:
Protect Your Hands & Feet
Protecting them from the cold is important for peripheral neuropathy sufferers. For those experiencing numbness, it is especially important as the lack of feeling could result in accidental prolonged exposure. Wear warm – but loose-fitting – gloves, socks, and shoes. Avoid tight-fitting clothing as much as possible as it can further restrict circulation.
Turn Up The Heat
Keeping your home warm can go a long way in keeping you comfortable and reducing the risk of further aggravation. For most, a comfortable temperature is between 65 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, your ideal temperature may vary so do what works for you. A warm house not only helps promote good circulation, but it can also have a calming effect and boost mood during the cold winter months.
Cold weather can and will play tricks on our bodies and inevitably aggravate our nerve pain, so making simple adjustments like the ones mentioned above can go a long way in improving our comfort. What do you do to keep your nerve pain under control during the winter? Share your advice below or post on our Facebook Page.