It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But if you experience chronic pain, lower temperatures can make it one of the most difficult times of the year.
Neuropathy — like most chronic pain — often gets worse as temperatures drop. Blood flow slows in your outer extremities when your body is exposed to cold. Nerve pain — especially in your hands and feet — increases as your circulation decreases.
The change in barometric pressure — due to temperature drops — intensifies pressure on the nerves, which send pain signals to the brain. Your perception of pain is increased as the nerve signals slow down because of the pressure. Also, soft tissues become firmer and tighten in the colder weather, thus resulting in painful muscle spasms. This is why it’s important to take precautions as the seasons change.
Here are four tips to fight off nerve pain during the winter months:
Make sure to wear the winter essentials. A sturdy coat, hat, scarf, gloves and thick socks are helpful when going outside. These items will prevent your body heat from leaving and the cold temperatures from getting to you. Keep your body heated and covered to help blood flow and muscle stiffness. Because your feet and hands are affected first and most intensely, it’s important to layer your socks and keep your hands covered as much as possible.
It’s nice to have a warm drink when it’s so cold, but try to stay away from caffeinated beverages. Consuming high amounts of caffeine can cause blood vessels to temporarily narrow, restricting the blood flow to your extremities. This could lead to increased nerve pain.
Take an indoor break.
Although it’s fun to build a snowman or take a walk in the brisk air, avoid staying outside for prolonged periods of times. Take breaks indoors often. This will let the warmth return to your body, blood flow to increase, and muscles to relax.
Taking part in light cardio can help warm up your muscles and promote good circulation, warding off the neuropathy caused by the colder temperatures. Try gentle movement exercises such as yoga, walking, elliptical and light weight training. Even a light swim in a heated pool could help to keep your body limber and ease away muscle tension.