8 Tips for Staying Warm
A large percentage of people with fibromyalgia are hypersensitive to cold. And many with other chronic pain conditions also find that being cold makes their pain worse. Since this is an exceptionally cold winter in may parts of the country, I thought it would be a good time to go over some tips to help us stay warm.
1. Fabric matters - The kind of fabric you wear can make a big difference. Do not wear cotton next to your skin. Cotton absorbs moisture, which will keep your skin damp and therefore colder. Ideally you want a fabric next to your skin that wicks moisture away from you. Wool is faster and better at pulling moisture away from your skin than any other fabric. We tend to think of wool as scratchy and uncomfortable next to the skin, but Merino wool is actually very soft and comfortable. Fleece is another good option. A thin layer of fleece next to your skin can be very comfy.
When it comes to coats, down is probably the warmest option as long as it’s dry outside, however, when down gets wet, it no longer works as an insulator. So if you get a down jacket, make sure it’s outer layer is made of a waterproof, breathable fabric.
2. Layer, layer, layer - You’ve probably heard that you should layer clothes to keep warm. Well, it’s true. Two or three thin layers will keep you warmer than one thick layer. Layering provides insulation. Layers of clothing trap air between them and help prevent the warmth from your body from leaking out. Another good way to keep your body heat from escaping is to tuck in the layer closest to your skin.
3. Staying warm from head to toe - There are three key parts of your body you should focus on if you want to get and stay warm. 1) Approximately 30 percent of your body’s heat is lost through your head, so if you really want to stay warm, put a hat on. (It’s a good way to hide a bad-hair day, too.) A large supply of blood circulates through your head, so keeping your head warm will help your entire body to stay warm. 2) Keeping your torso warm will help to keep your core body temperature higher. When your heart becomes chilled, your body will conserve heat by reducing blood flow to the extremities. Wearing a lightweight fleece or wool vest as one of your layers is an excellent way to help keep your torso warm. 3) Like your head, a lot of body heat can be lost through your feet. Layering works as well for the feet as it does for the rest of the body. Put on a pair of thin socks first, then layer with a pair of heavier socks, preferably thermal or wool socks.
4. Keeping warm at night - Layering works as well for bedding as it does for clothing. A flannel sheet, followed by a lightweight insulated blanket, topped with a down comforter should keep you toasty warm. If you happen to have one of the old-fashioned wool blankets, they are very warm, too - but you don’t want them next to you as they’re very scratchy (or at least the ones I grew up with were). Of course, electric blankets can also be nice and warm - just be sure to follow all the safety instructions.
5. Keep moving - Good circulation is essential if you want to stay warm. Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to get your circulation going. With chronic pain problems, some exercises may be out of the question, but try to do as much as you safely can without exacerbating your pain. At the very least, try to keep moving as much as possible. You’re more apt to get cold if you’re just sitting quietly.
6. Drink warm liquids - Whether it’s tea, cider, coffee or chocolate, hot drinks can give you a warm-all-over feeling. Ginger tea is said to be particularly good for helping to warm you because ginger helps improve circulation. Just thinly slice about a half-inch piece of fresh ginger root and add it to a cup of boiling water. Cover it and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain the tea into a cup and sweeten to taste. An added benefit of ginger tea is that it is also used as a home remedy for indigestion and nausea, and is said to help ward off colds, flu, and sore throats.
7. Try warming products - Today there are hundreds, probably thousands, of warming products on the market that are designed to work on pretty much every part of your body.
Some are electric, others can be heated in the microwave and still others are self-activating.
From the old standby heating pad to foot warmers, heat packs and even microwavable stuffed animals, there’s literally something for everyone.
Just do an Internet search for warming products and see what you can find that best meets your needs, fits your lifestyle, and is in your budget.
8. Cuddle With Furry Friends - I couldn’t leave a discussion on how to keep warm without mentioning how the body heat from a dog or cat on our lap or snuggled up to us in bed can help warm us. With one dog and three cats vying for a spot on my lap, my problem is more often how to cool down rather than how to keep warm. And I have to tell you about a lady I know of with fibromyalgia who adopted a Mexican Hairless dog, known for their body heat. Her dog loves to drape himself around her neck and she says the warmth he provides has really helped to reduce her pain level.
I hope each of you finds something here that will help keep you a little warmer so you can get through this winter with less pain. If you have a tip for keeping warm, please click on "Comments" below and tell us about it.
Karen is the Co-Founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.