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The Rollin' RN's

Why Do My Extremities Stay COLD?

A common question for those of us with spinal cord injuries (SCI)…..” Why do my legs stay cold all the time?” Well, the Rollin’ RN is here to answer this shared question.

It's pretty simple when you understand that the movement of muscles or exercise heats body parts. Cold extremities are related to poor circulation when a spinal cord injury is involved. Low blood circulation can cause lower extremities to remain cold. When a person walks, the muscles on their legs push against the blood vessels, which helps push the blood back up to the heart. This helps boost circulation, which keeps the legs and feet warm. Think about it, body heat is generated by muscle contractions. If your leg muscles cannot move, your body cannot produce enough heat on its own, and your feet and legs will quickly become cold.

Now that we understand “why” the cold feet, what can we do to improve the circulation?

  • Do some form of exercise for the lower extremities. And if you are unable to move your limbs, ask a friend for help. Any kind of movement will start to warm up those muscles and decrease the chilliness.

  • Heated blanket or warm socks. I mention this suggestion with some hesitancy. Beware of burning your skin. Remember, yes, the warmth is toasty but heat for long periods may cause a burn, that many of us are unable to feel happening. Which now creates another issue we don’t want to deal with.

  • Compression socks help with the circulation. Some of you still use them and some of us don’t. They will help improve lower extremity circulation. Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs to help increase blood pressure. Check your skin frequently to be certain the socks are not too tight.

  • DO NOT PLACE FEET IN FRONT OF A HEAT SOURCE. Frequently we have heard of people doing so and ending up with blisters on their feet.


It's all good, so keep on rollin’.

Patty, BSN, RN

The Rollin’ RN ™



Photos courtesy of Pinterest


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