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We all know people who complain that they are always cold. Living in NEPA, winter or damp cold fall and spring can make these poor people miserable 6 or more months a year! While it may never feel like Costa Rica, there are options to make our climate more tolerable for those suffering from the cold. Confession: Last year I broke down and bought rechargeable electric ski boot heaters…I LOVE THEM!

Use the Dyer to Warm up Your Clothes

While some environmentally conscious folks will think this is a waste of energy, those who suffer from constant chill will feel otherwise. Taking the chill out of your clothes first thing in the morning can set the pace for a nice toasty day. Run them through a short spin just before you get dressed. Your body is usually warmest in the morning, so why not try to keep up the toasty vibe!

Get Enough Calories

Cold temps require more energy demand from your body so you require more fuel to burn to maintain your core body temperature. One hot meal a day with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods will serve you well.

Wear Socks to Bed

Ok, not very sexy, but cold feet don’t cut it either! Wearing socks in bed can help heat your whole body and warm feet can signal your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. If that is the bedtime message you want to send but you don’t want to wear socks then consider wearing warm, fuzzy slippers for  a while before bed.

Wear Warm Pajamas

Flannel is not only cozy, but it still breathes so that you won’t get too hot or damp from sweat. Silk is a good second choice to keep you warm, but it might not breathe as well. If you’re really cold, try long underwear and a hat, or “nightcap.”

Iron and B12

Iron and B12 are essential to prevent anemia. If you have anemia, you may not have enough red blood cells to take oxygen around your body and that will make you feel chilly. People with poor diets or malabsorption problems may not get enough B12. Pregnant women sometimes have lower levels of iron, because their bodies use more than usual. Sources of B12: chicken, eggs, or fish. Sources of Iron: poultry, pork, seafood, chickpeas, and green leafy vegetables.

Layer Up

Lay it on! Several light layers keep you warmer than a single heavy one. Start with something thin, like thermal underwear that wicks away moisture then add insulation like a wool sweater or down jacket if outdoors. Use a windbreaker as an additional  outer shell. Three layers seem to be a sweet spot, but you can adjust. Not warm enough? Add another layer if your too hot, take a layer off.

Also, for those who do not tolerate the cold but love to be outdoors (skiing, ice skating, walking etc) consider some of the new technology. Chemical or rechargeable electric hand and foot warmers, electric heated jackets, vests or shells are also an option.

Electric Blanket/Mattress Pad

Electric blankets are OK but can waste heat as heat rises to the ceiling. A heated mattress pad may be a better option. It fits snugly like a sheet and it stays in place.

Don’t Hold Back on the Spices

Do you break a little sweat when you eat too many jalapenos? Spicy food literally warms up your body and maybe something to consider for extra warmth, unless you have stomach problems like ulcers. In fact, a spicy diet can be good for you. Just don’t overdo it!  

Plug In Space Heaters

Space heaters have come a long way to warm smaller areas. Pick a UL-approved unit that fits your space and purpose. A “convection” type with a fan might be best to heat a whole room. A “radiant” model is better to heat a specific spot. Put it on a level surface away from moving people. Keep pets and children away. Plug electric heaters directly into the wall, and look for a safety switch that turns it off when it’s knocked  over.

Move Your Body

Go for a walk or jog. If it’s too cold outside, hit the gym, or just do some jumping jacks, pushups, or other exercises indoors. Not only will it warm you up, it helps build and keep your muscles strong, which also burn calories and creates body heat. If you’re healthy enough for it, vigorous exercise might even raise your core body  temperature.

Make Time to Adjust

It can take 2 weeks to adjust to a cold, new environment and may take longer if you are older or have very little body fat. Some medications, like blood thinners or those for allergies or asthma can add to the problem. People who spend lots of time outside often find it easier to get used to sudden changes in temperature

Wear the Proper Footwear

Just because your footwear is insulated doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll keep you warm. Boots that aren’t well sealed from moisture can turn into ice blocks. Look for a high IPX rating. IPX-8 is the highest. It means you could dunk the whole boot in water and your foot would stay dry. And be sure to buy them big enough to fit in some thick wool socks.

Talk to Your Physician

Tell your doctor if you’re more sensitive to the cold than in the past. It could be a symptom of a problem with your nutrition, red blood cells (anemia), blood vessels, thyroid gland, or the brain’s thermostat. Try to note how often it happens, how long it lasts, and if it’s getting worse. Your doctor might do some tests to narrow down the cause.

Sources: WebMD

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next Week – LBP Part II of III
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit:

For further inquires related to this topic email:
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinicalmedicine at GCSOM.

10 Ways To Protect Your Joints This Winter!

The Problem:

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is often considered to be a normal part of aging. Usually by the age of forty our joints, especially those which are weight bearing (lower spine, hips, knees, ankles, feet) begin to show signs of wear and tear. The cartilage begins to thin, joint surfaces are not as smooth, and fluid which lubricates the joint becomes diluted, dehydrated and less protective. Consequently, these aging joints become stiff, sore, weak, and  swollen. Most people with osteoarthritis report additional pain and stiffness in the winter and early spring due to cold, damp weather and NEPA has plenty of it! The cold, for example, restricts the flow of blood to the joints, leading to more pain and stiffness. While moving to a warmer and less humid climate is one solution, it is not practical for most. But all is not lost because there are other alternatives to protect and keep your joints healthier this winter and early spring. And, if you are looking for some practical gift ideas for your loved ones suffering from arthritis, these tips may be valuable.

1.Parafin Bath and Hot Packs:

A paraffin bath is one of the best methods to apply heat to your hands and feet to ease pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. A special heating unit works like a crock pot to melt the wax to liquid form. The hands and/or feet are dipped into the wax several times to create a warm coating around the entire area. A 20 to 30 minute treatment while watching TV or listening to good music will provide pain relief, improve mobility in the joints and bring life back to winter damaged skin. $39.99 to $159.99 ( Hot packs, electric and microwavable, offer heat to bring blood flow and lessen joint pain and stiffness. They are great for neck and lower back pain, depending on the shape of the pad. Consider rectangle for lower back and cylinder/round to wrap around neck and joints of arms and legs. offers an electric pad which creates moist heat for $59.95 and a microwave “bed buddy” (herbal or nonherbal) can be found for $9.99 to $43.95 at TheWarmingStore.

2.Hand and Toe Warmers:

Hand and toe warmers are small packets placed in the gloves or boots of skiers, campers and hikers to keep the hands and feet warm. These throw away warmers can also be used by anyone with cold hands or feet whether you are shoveling snow, attending an outdoor event in the cold or sitting in a cold, drafty room watching TV. (Walmart, Dick’s, Gander Mountain,

3.Knee, Ankle, Wrist, Elbow, Wrist Sleeves:

Supportive sleeves for the joints can provide protection and warmth year round, but especially during the cold winter and early spring. Those made with neoprene material offer warmth and compression and can be valuable when participating in activities such as skiing, walking, running, basketball  name a few. Additionally, it can be helpful for those having joint pain with daily activities such as grocery shopping or house work. These devices should not be used when sitting for prolonged periods of time or sleeping. There is no scientific evidence that supports the use of cooper or magnets weaved into the sleeves for additional pain relief. (available at most pharmacies and medical equipment stores)

4.Compression Shorts and Shirts:

Similar to neoprene sleeves, compression shorts, pants and shirts can be invaluable to those participating in outdoor activities in cold temps. UnderArmor, Reebok, Nike, and others make these products which can also be worn indoors for those working in cool, drafty environments.

5.Hot Tub:

It seems obvious how and why hot water and massaging water jets can soothe the sore joints and muscles. To ensure additional pain and stress relief, add a candle, soft music and a cocktail!

6.Low Impact Exercise for Legs:  

If you suffer from osteoarthritis to the joints of your lower body, you would be well-advised to limit impact activities such as running and basketball. Instead, walk, swim, use the elliptical and bike to protect your joints.

7.Low Impact Exercise for Arms:

As above, if you have arthritis in the joints of the upper body, use low weights, avoid push-ups and dips, which transfer your body weight through the arms.  

8.Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):

These over-the-counter, non prescription drugs include aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) which are very effective in the treatment of the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. However, like all drugs, they are not without their risks so one must consult with their primary care physician and pharmacist before using them. For example, NSAIDs can thin the blood, irritate the stomach and may interact with other medications.

9.Topical Creams: Lidocane, Capsacian

Topical analgesics or pain relievers can be rubbed into or sprayed on the skin over the affected area. Some products are counterirritants using menthol, methylsalicylate and camphor which provide a sensation on the skin other than pain. Salicylate based products can work like aspirin to provide relieve from mild pain and inflammation. Capsaicin based products can also provide temporary relief due to the counter stimulation of warmth and tingling. A few things to keep in mind when using these products: one, discuss it with your physician or pharmacist. Two, topical agents are more effective in superficial joints such as the fingers, toes, wrist, elbow, knee and shoulder than in the deep tissues of the hip, buttocks, or lower back. Three, wash your skin thoroughly ater using these products and before using heat, cold or electric stimulation.

10.Massage: The therapeutic benefits of massage are well documented. However, like most treatments, it is important to find a qualified professional that meets your needs. Licensed physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and massage therapists are the best choice. Benefits include; relief from pain, headaches, muscle spasm, and stress, improved relaxation, posture, and breathing.


This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

For all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles visit

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.