Many people are already aware that heat often worsens symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). But for some, colder temperatures can be just as problematic. While excess heat exacerbates certain symptoms of the disease, lower temperatures can also increase symptoms and lead to more challenges. Symptoms include increased pain, decreased mobility, muscle cramping, stiffness/tightness, spasticity, fatigue, and even decreased mood, leading to increased levels of depression. Here are some ways to combat these symptoms of cold intolerance –
- Stretch – Stay mobile to reduce stiffness. Yoga is a great way to stretch, stay active, and focus on breathing.
- Keep hands/feet Warm – Wear socks or slippers and gloves – even in the home to help keep distal extremities warm.
- Warm your Core – Drink hot/warm beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa…) to warm up from the inside out.
- Layer Up- Dress in multiple layers so that you can remove or add back on to help regulate your temp without overheating.
- Get some Sun – Go outside for a short time on sunny days during the winter (be sure to dress appropriately) to help increase your Vitamin D levels. This helps boost your mood and reduce the risk of depression. Or talk to your doctor about a Vitamin D Supplement.
- Breathe Deep – Work on deep breathing techniques (inhale through your nose slowly, focusing on expanding your chest wall, and slowly exhale through pursed lips). This stretches intercostal muscles through your ribcage to reduce the sensation of the “MS Hug” (tightening of these muscles)
- Avoid Overcompensating with Heat – Don’t crank up the furnace/ thermostat, and avoid extremely hot baths/showers. Overcompensating the cold with excess heat will also lead to symptom exacerbation.
The key is to help maintain comfortable temperatures and be able to adjust easily when completing ADLs/ self-care, leaving the home, getting in and out of the car, going in and out of stores, offices, work, etc.
Consult your Niagara Therapy, LLC Physical Therapist for a more individualized program for stretching and to meet your needs and personal goals at 814-464-0627.