5 Ways to Survive and Thrive in Cold Weather with Chronic Pain

winter-chronic-painPain Camp is located in the upper midwest region of the United States of America. We’ve been blessed that we’ve not seen extreme sub-zero temps during the winter time in several years. So what is a Pain Camper to do in cold weather? How can we go from surviving to thriving with Chronic Pain in the winter time?

Temperature in the winter never bothered me before chronic pain. In fact, I used to do a lot of skiing (downhill and XC) and was even on the Cross Country Ski team in High School (I wasn’t very good, but hey, I looked darn cute in my spandex suit at that age). After my chronic pain diagnosis is a completely different story. My body’s “I HATE WINTER” response is not effective as I live where winter happens. It happens every year. My body (and my mind) need to survive and thrive because I will most likely continue to reside here as this is where my family and friends are.

Pain Camper Plan of Action

Bundle Up! Those of us moving from surviving to thriving have decided “We don’t care what other people think” and this applies to being puffy like a marshmallow with all of our layers in the winter time too! Layers, hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, warm socks, throw it all on! Long johns, hoodies and scarves are my go-to clothing in the winter. I even wear turtle necks.
Think Warm! When my Physical Therapist first proposed this idea, I looked at her like she had 3 heads. Then I remembered how powerful our brains are and what I used to teach people in therapy sessions (think guided imagery). Before you walk out into freezing cold, close your eyes and briefly imagine your muscles being relaxed and that you’re on a nice warm beach laying in the sun. Yes, this only works for a few minutes for me (until my CNS takes over), but it does help me increase my awareness and be mindful of how tense my muscles are. When I’m more aware of my muscle tension, I can use my tools to help relax them.
Energy Conservation! In Chronic Pain Rehab I learned about the importance of conserving my energy. When I look at my daily list of Pain Camper activities, I need to pick and choose what I can realistically do on that day, at that specific time, with my level of pain. I also need to be mindful of looking a day or two ahead. My experience, strength and hope: yesterday (30+ degrees) I took care of the car (gas, wash, air in tires) and got errands taken care. Today (3 degrees) I went out to one place. Tomorrow (-5 as the high) I will be out driving over 100 miles (in and out of 3 homes) for work. Tomorrow is going to be a “pulled pork from the crock-pot for dinner” day.
Blankets, heating pads and hot packs – oh my! For Christmas, my Supportive Spouse got me a full size heated blanket. I turn it on about 30 minutes before getting into bed and it keeps me toasty all night. I have my eye on a throw that went on clearance for the living room so I don’t have to keep hauling the full size back and forth. Heating pads and hot packs are great for specific areas of pain. Microwaveable wraps are awesome too!
Warm House! I know that this increases our costs somewhat, but a cold Pain Camper is not a happy Pain Camper. We have our thermostat a bit higher on the sub-zero days. We also have invested in some other ways to control the drafts such as plastic over the windows and plug covers for electrical plugins that are not in use. After an ice dam a couple of years ago, we re-insulated the attic and that has helped as well.

Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope.What do you do to keep warm in the winter? 


  1. Pingback: How To Manage Chronic Pain - Derek Wilson Law

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