Warming up tricksFeb 01 07:23
When it's bone-chilling cold out and you can't walk, warming back up again is no easy feat. What usually takes a half hour tops, takes three hours if you're sedentary. Yes, I have timed it, and it's hard not to when the wait is so long.
When you're lying in bed, wondering why you can't fall asleep, only to reach down and feel your legs, realizing your legs are still freezing (hence the reason your body isn't letting you fall asleep), it can get pretty frustrating. How do YOU warm up your body if you've been out in cold weather? Have you discovered any tricks along your journey?
I of course have brainstormed this situation from every angle. It's pretty understandable why we get cold compared to everyone else. The reason — we're only moving half our body. Less movement = less blood flow. Yup. Doesn't take a genius to get that. And the solution it would seem would be to figure out a way to get that blood moving again. There are options a plenty, but they're not all that effective.
I first tried doing range of motion, well more than usual, but nothing happened; legs were still icicles. Next, I asked my PCA to rub my legs all over — like she was trying to start a fire IMHO — and still, not much of a temperature difference. Come on, was it really going to be that hard? I had discovered that freezing-cold paralyzed legs are one of the most stubborn things to warm up.
So I began to think more creatively. How else would it be effective to warm up seriously cold appendages? Well, dressing in layers before letting them get cold would be the first wise move. I began wearing fleece leggings under my jeans, sometimes with a pair of thigh-high knit socks over them, and slowly I began to see a difference. My legs were still colder at night, but not as ridiculously cold. But what if I forgot to layer? I still needed a quick "warm them up" solution. So I kept looking.
After trying neck warmers (applied to the legs), piling blankets on my legs and cranking the heat and sitting in front of a space heater, it turns out warm water is the magic solution. Being completely immersed in warm/hot water, in either the shower, the tub or a hot tub (if you have access to one), is one of the best ways to get blood soaring into cold limbs again. I read this tip online, and hot dang — it's the ticket.
If you can't jog in place for a few minutes, you can't get better than using warm water to warm up. Exercising and sex are always helpful of course, can't forget that, and whiskey, but after sitting under warm water, it was shocking. My legs warmed up in five minutes. It's really amazing to see! And really, it just makes me happy knowing waiting needlessly for three hours wait for the "warm-up" to happen isn't my only option. Ha. Take that SCI.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Always be aware of the possibility of burning yourself in areas without sensation. Here are a couple of articles on preventing burns:
Escaping the Hot Seat
Hotel Hot Water and Rental Car Burn Dangers
How do you warm up after being out in the cold?
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1. edylynn | Feb 04 04:04
Take one or two clean athletic (no heel) sock(S), to each sock add 2 to 3 cups grain. Rice is very good, popcorn is a bad idea, won't work, but buckwheat, wheat, quinoa will all work. Tie a simple knot in the top of the sock. Place in a microwave up to 2 minutes per sock. Shake up and see if more warmth is required. Place along cold limb. Warm, oft, reusable, no pressure sores heat that lasts for several hours if you and the "hot sock" are covered up. We keep about four of these socks handy when traveling. They warm the cold pot, warm the bed, feel good a foot flop supports, keep containers o liquid from falling over for straw drinking. Quite handy, and if you loose one, not a large investment.
2. johanna | Feb 04 08:16
yes, warm/hot water is the only way in my experience to warm up those night 'icicle' limbs, that truly DO prevent me from sleeping for hours! hot water bottles and other warming devices are second best. direct contact with water works best because water is such a great conductor of heat (and cold if cooling is needed). i do have to be careful if my legs are particularly cold, not to warm up with hot water right away, but to take a few minutes and gradually increase the temp. tissues can be damaged if the contrast of hot water and cold skin is too great, too quickly. (like a frost bitten nose can't be taken into heat too quickly or skin will die--not quite the case for cold limbs, but the PRINCIPLE is essentially the same for low circulation areas). circulation and keeping heat seem to depend on the number of active, alive nerves one has in one's limbs. so more types of spasticity or voluntary movements per limb=better circulation and heat movement from the warmer parts of the body.
3. krsketch | Feb 05 10:32
If there is one thing I hate more than being cold, I can't think of it. That's why I moved from NH to Tucson AZ. When it gets below 80 degrees I'm cold.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.