Coffee with Esther (July 2022)

Hello again! 

Well, June’s coffee breaks were another success, with more new members joining each week. News is traveling fast about our new adventure and this month we saw many new people joining us from all over the world. So thank you to all that came and joined in. It’s becoming a proper little family! A safe place to talk things through, even if it’s not about Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM). The laughter and giggles could be heard throughout the coffee breaks, but also some serious conversations were had too. I do hope everyone that joined in loved them as much as I did. 

June is a month in the UK where the weather can still be very cold. But this month the temperatures have been rising and this was discussed within the coffee breaks on many occasions. So I thought I would take a few moments to discuss how the weather can affect you, and your myelopathy. 

Did you know if you have a spinal cord injury, your body and brain may not send or receive nerve signals properly.

The normal responses to hot and cold, such as sweating or shivering, may still occur. But your reaction may not be as effective if the whole body does not react to them. You may not experience the feeling of hot and cold as you used to, but your body is still sensing and responding to it. It is important to be aware that your body can be more sensitive to changes in temperature. 

You should also pay attention to the other signals your body sends you about its temperature, not just the sensation. For example, anyone with spinal damage above T6 is generally more sensitive to fluctuations in body temperature, and the feeling of hot and cold items. You need to be extra careful when handling things that are hot because you can easily get burnt without knowing. 

Hot Temperatures

Credit: Techa Tungateja

In hot conditions when you have myelopathy, you may experience headaches, migraines, feelings of dizziness and nausea. Your face and neck may become a brighter red than normal, but your body may not give you the signals that you are too hot. So watch your body and practice the following ideas. 

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. 
  • Avoid extreme temperatures.
  • Do not stay out in the sun too long. Set a timer to make sure you pace yourself in the sun. 
  • Keep yourself cool with a cold cloth (e.g. flannel) around the neck. When freezing the cloth, make sure you pop it in a bag before putting it in the freezer.
  • Take cold baths or showers if you can. 
  • Carry a spray water bottle with you.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Experts say avoid ice packs, because you may not sense them as much as before. 
  • Wear lighter clothes, but not tight fitting. (bye bye skinny jeans!)
  • Stay in a cooler environment, use fans and air conditioning – if available. 
  • To keep the house cooler, you can close the curtains to prevent the sun heating up the room. South facing rooms are especially hot in the summer. 
  • PACE yourself in hot conditions and remember to rest your body. 

If your temperature stays high after cooling, it could be something else and you should seek medical advice. 

Cold Temperatures

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

In cold temperatures you may feel the numbness sensation more, especially on fingertips and toes. So following a few of these ideas could help you feel warmer and be able to enjoy the cold weather more.  

  • Layers of clothing are better than one thick layer.
  • Make sure hands and feet are always dry and covered, again layers are better. I wear protex gloves and on top of them I use fingerless gloves. I also use hiking socks or insulated socks to help keep my toes from being too cold. 
  • Heated blankets and warmers. Again experts do not recommend them as you may not know your true temperature with them, but if you do use them, then only for short periods of time and on low settings. I myself do use blankets and warmers, but I only use it with a timer and on low settings.
  • Exercise. This simulates the blood flow and blood flow is the most important thing for our bodies. Now when I say exercise, I do not mean a full spin class followed by a 10k hike.
  • If you have limited mobility, muscles can shrink and they will not conserve energy. 85% of heat production is your muscles contracting. If we do not keep our bodies moving, our metabolic rate will slow down and limit our bodies ability to produce heat. 
  • Passive range motion exercises can help your body maintain a good temperature throughout. These exercises are designed to help maintain muscle mass. They are very simple and you can do them anywhere. Use Google or YouTube to find out more. 
  • Skin thickness can also be a significant player in body temperature. Thick skin stores the fat which will keep warmth inside your body. Thin skin will not store heat and it needs to be covered in extra layers to keep warm.  

One thing I learnt on investigating this subject was our emotional state can also affect our temperature. Stress and anxiety can increase our body temperature without us knowing. It is so important to maintain our mental health state as much as our physical symptoms. 

So after three virtual coffee break blogs, I think we can safely say our worlds have to be paced out, we have to rest our bodies, and having good mental health is so important. If we try and do all these three things we can enjoy our lives. 

So stay cool or warm, and hopefully I will see you soon in our virtual coffee breaks in July. If you would like to join us, please find more information on our Support Group on Facebook. 

July/August Virtual Coffee Breaks:

  • 14th July at 2pm GMT
  • 21st July at 6pm GMT
  • 4th August at 11am GMT
  • 11th August at 2pm GMT
  • 18th August at 6pm GMT

See you soon,
Esther

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