If you suffer with CRPS or chronic pain winter is not generally your friend. Cold weather leads to pain flares, temperature changes and other unpleasant symptoms. As the UK hits its first really cold spell of winter 2018, I reached out to the amazing Facebook CRPS community to ask for their top tips on how to survive a cold spell. And unsurprisingly, they had brilliant suggestions! I’ve split them into four sections so you can easily find the ones most relevant to you; ‘General’ is the suggestions likely to help anyone with chronic pain or CRPS, ‘Upper Limb’ covers painful hands and arms, whilst ‘Lower Limb’ looks at tips for anyone with pain in their legs and feet. ‘Lifestyle’ contains suggestions for everyone on simple things you can do that might make your winter a bit easier.
- Heated throw or blanket: Lots and lots of people suggested this and I wholeheartedly agree. A good heated throw or blanket can be a costly investment, but there’s not much better than covering your affected limb with a soft soothing heat. And if you have pets they’ll likely adore it too! I splurged last year on a Dreamland Relaxwell Deluxe Faux Fur Heated Throw (£119) which is pricey but worth every penny. If your budget’s a bit smaller, this Homefront Electric Heated Throw / Over Blanket in Chocolate is half the price (£49.95) and has 472 five-star reviews.
- Heating pad: This was another suggestion that came up again and again. Heating pads are versatile, giving off gentle controllable heat which can be applied to different parts of the body. This one from John Lewis has good reviews and is £32. One thing to be aware of when using a heating pad: CRPS body parts aren’t always great at recognising heat, so be sure to check the area you’re using it regularly to make sure you don’t burn. Alternatively, Cura Heat Pads are disposable heat pads that you stick to your clothes or your skin and activate on contact with air, providing a gentle heat that lasts up to 24 hours. The great thing about these pads is that they can be worn discreetly under your clothes if need be; you can also stock up at a decent price if you buy them through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save Service.
- Epsom salt baths: Epsom Salts can be really soothing for CRPS and combined with a nice warm (but not hot!) bath can be a pleasant pain-relieving experience. Simply add the Epsom Salts when you’re running your bath, just like you would with normal bubble bath! You can easily find medical grade Epsom Salts on Amazon, through health food shops like Holland & Barrett or even at your chemist.
- Soft, fuzzy pyjamas: There’s little nicer than snuggling up in soft warm pyjamas when it’s cold outside, and loads of people recommended this! We all know that finding tolerable fabrics can be a real challenge when you suffer with CRPS so gorgeously soft pyjamas can be a god-send! Primark do a great range of cheap pyjamas in loads of different prints although unfortunately they don’t sell online. Alternatively, good old Marks and Sparks has a fab selection of nightwear for men, women and kids at every price point.
If you’ve got CRPS in your arms and hands
- Hand warmers: These were probably the most recommended item overall! These disposable hand warmers provide around 8 hours of heat each. They’re air-activated, so open them, pop them in your gloves and there you go! Alternatively, if you’d like a more durable solution, you can buy Hot Rox rechargeable hand warmers for £22.46 with VAT relief each. They should be rechargeable up to 500 times and will give up to 6 hours’ heat on a single charge. If you really want to splurge, there are some amazing rechargeable heated gloves out there.
- Horse bandages: This may sound like a weird suggestion but bear with me! Many people with CRPS in their arms struggle to find a warm covering that they can tolerate – this is where fleece horse bandages come in! Designed to keep horses’ legs warm and comfortable, these bandages are long, very soft and stick to themselves, enabling you to wrap your entire arm in one if you wish! They’re very affordable and generally come in a set of four; there’s a huge range of options out there in terms of colour and price if you want to give them a go.
For painful legs and feet
- Sheepskin boots and slippers: I live in my fleecy boots. Constantly. Honestly, I wear them to death and am devastated when a favourite pair dies! There’s a vast range of furry boots out there, at every price and of every type imaginable, but unfortunately real sheepskin doesn’t come cheap. At the top end of the market, there’s UGG boots which are expensive, but in my opinion, last very well and are good quality. They do have an official outlet on their website and if you keep an eye on it you can sometimes snag a bargain. Equally expensive, but great quality and British-made are Celtic and Co. I bought a pair of their adorably fluffy Toscana boots in the sale last year and oh my word they’re just marvellous. The truth is that unfortunately any cheap sheepskin boots you find are likely to be faux sheepskin which is still warm and fluffy, but in my experience, don’t often last very long and just aren’t as warm and fluffy as the real stuff. My advice is to hoard your pennies and watch like a hawk for any discounts; that’s what I do!
- Warm, fuzzy socks: I find it very difficult to tolerate socks on my affected foot so this is a topic dear to my heart! Cashmere bedsocks are deliciously soft and wonderful, but very expensive and not durable. A great alternative I’ve found are these Alpaca bedsocks which are just as warm but half the price. Many people swear by Primark’s fuzzy bedsocks and Heat Holders are another popular option; in my case though, I find I have to wear natural fibres due to the sweating and overheating caused by CRPS, so unfortunately these types don’t work for me. They might for you! If you’re crafty, why not buy some yarn and knit your socks exactly how you want them?
- Foot warmers: The same company that make the Hand Warmers mentioned above also make disposable Foot Warmers you can pop in your shoes that provide up to 8 hours of heat. If you’re feeling flash, you can invest in rechargeable wirelessly controlled heated insoles but be warned, the reviews for every pair I could find would best be described as ‘mixed’.
Lifestyle tips: a selection of ideas to make your winter living easier
- Pain Flare Kit: it’s always helpful to try and get together a ‘flare kit’ consisting of everything you need/want when the pain’s really bad. Mine tends to include fluffy slippers, extra pain meds, a fully-charged Kindle, my iPad loaded with music and photos of cute animals, and my dog! Whatever works for you, you’re likely to need it at some stage over the next few months so try to be prepared.
- Stock up on non-perishables: If you’re feeling just too rubbish to get to the shops (and we’ve all been there) it’s a great idea to have a stash of meals you can throw together easily. Stock your freezer with ready-meals or freeze extra portions in advance or you can never go wrong with fish fingers and chips (or at least you can’t in my house). Another easy way to help keep warm is to stick to hot drinks and hot food rather than sandwiches and salads while it’s chilly.
- If you do go out, wrap up well: This is where I get all mumsy and check that you’ve all got your hats, scarves and gloves on before you open the front door. I know it’s a really obvious thing, but ensuring you’re well wrapped up generally and in particular on your affected body parts can make a real difference.
- Failing all else, win the lottery and move somewhere warm: I think we should set up a CRPS lottery syndicate; if we win (sorry, I mean WHEN we win) we’ll all move to an enormous house in the Bahamas. Who’s with me?!
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