Winter tips for neurological diseases


In the winter months, everyone is vulnerable to the cold.

Some people with neurological conditions can have extra cold-related problems, such as heightened nerve pain when the temperature gets low.

Nerve pain

If you have a condition that involves nerve pain, such as back pain, trigeminal neuralgia or a Chiari malformation, you will find that the temperature has an effect on your symptoms. This is to do with the nervous system and how it reacts to temperature changes. If the temperature is too hot you may feel tired and lethargic - and if it is too cold, this may heighten the pain you feel.

Muscle stiffness

Cold weather can cause muscle stiffness and spasms if you have multiple sclerosis or suffer from spasticity. It's best to avoid being out in the cold for too long if this affects you.

Loss of sensation

Some people are not able to differentiate between hot and cold. If you have this problem, take extra care not to expose yourself to cold temperatures - or to get too close to fire or radiators if you can't feel the heat.

Cold-related illness

People with certain chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, are offered a flu jab, to protect against seasonal flu. This is because they may be more susceptible to catching the flu, and may have a higher risk of complications if they catch it.

Icy conditions

Slippery paths and pavements can be unsafe for anyone, but you should take extra care if you have mobility problems or suffer from dizziness or balance problems.

Here are some tips for dealing with the cold weather:

Wrap up warm!

Extra layers, such as thermal underwear, can help keep the heat in. When out and about keep your hands and feet warm with socks and gloves, and wear a winter coat, hat and scarf.

If you have nerve pain in a particular part of the body, make sure that part is particularly well protected when you go out. For example, keep your face warm with a scarf or a balaclava if you suffer from face pain.

Hot water bottles and portable heat pads can be useful for extra warmth - and if you're going on a journey, bring a flask of hot drink.

Heat your home

The ideal temperature for your main living room is between 18 and 21C, and you should try to keep the temperature above 18C in your bedroom at night.

Insulate your home

Keep doors and windows shut and close the curtains to keep the heat in.

Make sure you are eating and drinking properly, as this will keep your energy levels up and help your body to cope with the colder temperatures. Eat hot meals and plenty of fruit and vegetables.

If you can, stay active - moving about will improve your circulation, generate heat and make you feel better.

Source: The Brain & Spine Foundation