Tips for Managing Neuropathy During Winter

May 19, 2014

Staying warm and healthy during the winter can be challenging for anyone in most parts of the country, but it can be especially difficult for cancer patients, particularly those who may be experiencing treatment-related neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is a temporary or long-lasting nerve problem that may occur as a result of certain chemotherapy drugs.  It can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling, usually in the hands or feet, making snowy weather and freezing temperatures all the more challenging.

Clare Sullivan, BNS, MPH
Clare Sullivan, BNS, MPH

“Peripheral neuropathy occurs from certain treatments affecting the nerves in the body, especially the nerves that sense pain, heat, cold, touch, balance, and fine motor movement,” says Clare Sullivan, BSN, MPH, clinical program manager, Patient Education at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who urges patients with neuropathy to take extra precautions in cold weather.

If you experience numbness in the hands and feet as a result of cancer treatment, consider these tips from Sullivan:

  • Keep hands and feet warm and dry
    Invest in good, warm gloves and extra socks during the winter. Layers will help keep your hands and feet dry, which may help ease numbness in colder weather.
  • Wear boots with traction
    This will create an extra layer between your feet and the snow or ice, giving you additional protection against the elements, while helping keep you steady on slippery ground and prevent falls.
  • Dress warm
    Wear a warm coat with thick padding to protect your body, especially your lower arms. Staying warm will help maintain circulation to and from the hands, and may lessen pain and help maintain your range of motion.
  • Walk with hands out of pockets
    Keep your hands free and stretched out to prevent falls and protect yourself when they do occur. Rather than confining your hands to your pockets, which can create cramping and increase the likelihood of falls, wear warm gloves and keep your hands free instead.

View this Dana-Farber Slideshare presentation to learn more about neuropathy diagnosis, treatment, and management from Cindy Tofthagen, PhD, ARNP, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of South Florida, and post-doctoral fellow at Dana-Farber and the University of Massachusetts.