Getting Peripheral Neuropathy To Chill This Winter

Cold weather brings a wealth of fun activities like snowball fights, sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, caroling, warm nights by the fire, and holiday celebrations with family and friends. For people suffering from peripheral neuropathy, however, the cold often also means more pain.

So, why do cold temperatures worsen pain, and how do you manage your symptoms?

Neuropathy and the Cold

While researchers don’t know all the contributing factors, they have identified two physiological reactions to cold that could explain why pain increases when the temperature drops. To understand why, it’s important to understand what neuropathy is.

Peripheral neuropathy caused by nerve damage in your extremities that causes the nerves to send corrupted signals to the brain. Symptoms are often described as tingling or burning in the feet and hands. You may experience hypersensitivity to wintry weather conditions because of these misfiring nerves.

  1. The first reason your symptoms may get worse when it’s cold outside has to do with blood flow. When we get cold, our body pulls blood away from the extremities to warm the core and protect vital organs. Reduced blood flow to the nerves in your hands and feet slows the delivery of oxygen and starves nerves of needed nutrients, contributing to damage.
  2. The second reason is changing bariatric pressure. As the temperature drops, there’s more atmospheric pressure on nerves. Even slight changes in pressure, like having a blanket on at night, cause your neuropathy symptoms to flare up. Unnoticed by most, the bariatric pressure around you increases and decreases as the temperature rises and falls.

Coping Techniques

Knowing some of the root causes of your discomfort can help you mitigate it. Here are some helpful hints for coping with the fluctuations in weather this winter.

  • Keep a constant temperature. The best way to prevent blood loss in your hands and feet is to stay warm so your body doesn’t react to protect your vital organs. Find a temperature that provides optimal comfort, and keep the thermostat there.
  • Dress for the cold. When venturing outside, keep your core, hands, and feet warm. A good winter coat, warm gloves, and impermeable warm boots protect your nerves and preserve blood flow.
  • Dress in layers. As the weather changes throughout the day, you can make small adjustments by removing a layer rather than going from one extreme to another and over-exciting the nerves.
  • Avoid nicotine. Nicotine products constrict blood vessels much like the body when trying to preserve core heat. Warm or not, your body reacts to the reduced blood flow, causing more pain.
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. Caffeine and nicotine cause similar physiological reactions, restricting blood to the extremities.
  • Stay active. Though it may be uncomfortable, staying active is still important. Exercise promotes circulation, oxygenates the blood, and helps with mood. If it is too uncomfortable to exercise outside, try finding indoor activities, like yoga or pilates. Low impact exercise indoors can have wonderful benefits.
  • Get adequate sleep. Insomnia can worsen symptoms and your ability to deal with them.
    • Stay away from electronics for an hour before bed.
    • Establish a sleep routine so your body knows when to shut down for the night.
    • Keep your bedroom at a constant temperature. Aim for warm enough to wear a blanket but not too warm to sleep deeply. For most people, that’s around 65-70 degrees.
  • Keep blood sugar under control. Elevated sugar or insulin can damage nerves, which is why people with diabetes struggle with neuropathy. Aim for whole grains, fruits, veggies, and unprocessed meats for the bulk of your diet, and limit sugar.
  • Try supplements. There are supplements meant to increase nerve conductivity and regeneration and reduce inflammation. B vitamins, vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids, NAC, Alpha-lipoic acid, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, etc. Talk to your provider and verify there are no contraindications between these supplements and the medications you are presently taking. Ask about the dosage and frequency that will best serve your needs.
  • Try physical and chiropractic therapies. Find therapies meant to increase circulation, oxygenation, and nerve stimulation. If you create an optimal environment, damaged but not yet dead nerves may heal. Your success depends on how quickly you seek treatment after the onset of symptoms, whether the underlying cause is treatable, how damaged the nerves are, and how well you follow your provider’s directions on treatment.

Winter Can be Wonderful

As with all neuropathy treatments, finding the right balance is an exercise in trial and error. Over time, you will know what triggers your neuropathy symptoms and what makes it feel better. A journal can help you find your happy place. Note your symptoms and the environment, and look for trends to see where your body is most comfortable.

Winter is a time for family holidays and cold-weather fun. It’s also a time for cozy blankets, fuzzy socks, coffee or hot cocoa, and good books or movies. However you like to while away the winter days, you should be able to have fun with your families and friends without suffering with the discomforts that come with peripheral neuropathy.

DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE

The information, including but not limited to, texts, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article are for informational purposes only. None of the material mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.