Q. Any tips for dealing with neuropathy in cold weather?

A.

Cold weather poses special challenges for people affected by neuropathy. Prolonged exposure to the cold causes the body to slow blood circulation to the hands and feet in an effort to preserve the body’s core temperature. The reduced blood flow can intensify neuropathy symptoms and potentially cause further damage to already affected peripheral nerves. This is of special concern to those who experience their neuropathy pain as a numbness or tingling sensation. Their ability to measure the effects of the cold is compromised since they already experience those physical warning signals that would otherwise indicate a need to get to warmer conditions.

Tips to lessen the pain and lower your risk of further nerve damage:

  • Wear warm, dry clothing in cold weather.
  • Protect your hands and feet by wearing thick socks, thick mittens or gloves.
  • Take intermittent breaks from the cold to reduce your exposure to extreme temperatures.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine before an outing as it can temporarily cause blood vessels to narrow.
  • Do not smoke as cigarette smoke can slow circulation.
  • Limit alcohol use since excessive consumption can lead to vitamin deficiency which can, in turn, damage peripheral nerves.
  • Incorporate exercise into your routine to improve overall circulation.
  • Explore comfort measures like massage or use of flexible splints for support.

The information I’ve shared above is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice. Please be sure to consult with your health care team for personalized advice and guidance.

For more information about neuropathy, please view all CancerCare’s neuropathy resources.