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? That's the question we posed to Dr. Kennedy in this month's Facebook Live. We covered a lot of information with Dr. K so to help provide you the best resource possible, we’ve taken that information and compiled it below. The video provides some additional anecdotes and insights, but this post will give you an easy summary to reference anytime.
Here are Dr. K's 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 are 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 couple of resources with ideas for low-impact stretches or exercises you can do this winter:
Protect Your Hands & Feet
Hands and feet are the two most common areas affected by nerve pain and are the most susceptible to poor circulation in the winter.
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. Inspect all areas of feet if numbness everyday - look for dark for discolored areas or early cracks for wounds. Take breaks from cold - no long exposure
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.