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How Cold Weather Can Impact Muscles for Individuals with Cerebral Palsy

Living with cerebral palsy (CP) can present various challenges, and one aspect that often goes unnoticed is how cold weather affects individuals with this condition. Cerebral palsy affects muscle control and movement, and when combined with frigid temperatures, it can further impact the well-being of those with CP. Let's explore how cold weather can affect the muscles of individuals with cerebral palsy and discuss strategies to mitigate these challenges.

1. Increased muscle stiffness:

Cold weather can cause muscles to become stiffer and more rigid, which can be particularly challenging for individuals with cerebral palsy. People with CP already experience muscle tightness due to the condition, and the cold weather exacerbates these symptoms. The drop in temperature can lead to increased muscle stiffness, making movement more difficult and uncomfortable.

2. Decreased flexibility:

Flexibility is crucial for individuals with cerebral palsy to maintain their range of motion and perform daily activities. However, cold weather can reduce flexibility, making it harder to move and perform tasks that may already be challenging due to the effects of CP. This decreased flexibility can further limit mobility and independence.

3. Increased muscle pain:

Cold weather can also contribute to an increase in muscle pain for individuals with cerebral palsy. The combination of low temperatures and muscle stiffness can lead to discomfort and soreness. The pain experienced due to these weather-related effects can make it harder to engage in physical activities, leading to decreased mobility and potential limitations in overall well-being.

4. Challenges with coordination and balance:

Cerebral palsy often affects coordination and balance; cold weather can intensify these challenges. Reduced muscle flexibility and increased stiffness can impact balance and coordination, making it more difficult for individuals with CP to maintain stability and move confidently. This can increase the risk of falls and injuries, especially on icy or slippery surfaces.

I have experienced ALL of the above, more so now I am getting older, with muscles becoming stiffer and rigid, especially on my right side, where I am affected by cerebral palsy the most. I also begin experiencing increased muscle pain in my hamstrings and leg muscles. This then affects my coordination and balance, leading to a drop in confidence to do things or go places alone, in turn leading to my anxiety soaring and questioning my self-worth. Also, in colder weather, I have fallen over numerous times, especially slipping on icy surfaces, leading to quite a few injuries, including broken bones.

Please be aware that from a personal, friendship and professional perspective, cold weather can affect or hinder how people with cerebral palsy can carry out everyday tasks that most people take for granted due to muscles tightening up and energy levels dropping. For example, if you have a work or business meeting scheduled with someone with cerebral palsy on a cold day, they may need to rearrange the meeting or move it to an online one because it's too icy for them to travel and get to the meeting's venue. Extra time may be needed for the person to participate in the meeting because of stiff muscles, meaning they are using up more energy managing their uncontrollable movements, meaning everything can take longer than expected. Becoming more aware, empathetic and knowledgeable about how stiffness and tight muscles can affect people with cerebral palsy and the impact it has on their professional daily routines and putting in practice on spreading awareness within the business world on how and why people with cerebral palsy may need to change patterns or rearrange scheduled meetings will only make you, as a business or company become more accessible, diverse and inclusive.

Disabled people and people with cerebral palsy, like everyone else, also have the right to a social life if they choose to have one. There is nothing wrong with a disabled person going on a well-deserved shopping trip, a meal, a friendly drink with friends, or even a holiday with a carer, or as people prefer to call them today, a personal assistant. However, please remember that in colder weather, people with physical disabilities have the added encumbrance of the possibility of having to pre-plan, rearrange or even cancel arranged days or nights out due to the weather conditions and the roads and pathways becoming too icy and dangerous to navigate, risking falling over and having the horrible decision-making process to go through of whether or not to risk getting seriously injured or asking people if they are happy to rearrange or even cancel, this all leads to disappointment and anxiety. Again, this is where understanding and empathy all help support and make disabled people feel more included in the short and long term.

Mitigating the Impacts:

1. Dressing appropriately:

Wearing warm clothing, including layers, can help to retain body heat and minimise the impact of cold weather on muscles. Additionally, using thermal accessories such as gloves, hats, and scarves can help to protect extremities and maintain warmth.

2. Regular stretching and exercise:

Regular stretching exercises can help maintain muscle flexibility and counteract the effects of cold weather. Physical therapy and targeted exercises prescribed by healthcare professionals can be especially beneficial for individuals with cerebral palsy, helping to reduce muscle stiffness and promote mobility.

3. Warm-up routines:

Before heading outdoors, taking the time to warm up muscles through gentle exercises or applying heat therapy techniques like warm towels or heating pads can help to loosen tight muscles and improve circulation. This can make movement more manageable and more comfortable in cold weather.

4. Maintaining indoor comfort:

Creating a warm and comfortable indoor environment can be crucial for individuals with cerebral palsy during colder months. Keeping living spaces adequately heated can help prevent muscles from becoming too stiff, promoting mobility and overall well-being.

To conclude, cold weather can pose unique challenges for individuals with cerebral palsy, affecting muscle stiffness, flexibility, coordination, and balance. However, with appropriate strategies and precautions, these challenges can be mitigated. By dressing appropriately, engaging in regular stretching and exercise, incorporating warm-up routines, and maintaining a comfortable indoor environment, individuals with cerebral palsy can minimise the impact of cold weather on their muscles and continue to thrive despite the challenges presented by their condition.

I discuss in more detail how I stay as mobile as possible, including how fatigue can also affect people with cerebral palsy and how I try to battle to mitigate all of this in #CerebralPalsyAndMe, my autobiography about living with cerebral palsy. You can order a copy on my website.

Best wishes,



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