By Dr. Nicole Kilian, ND, LAc
Feeling that familiar tickle in your throat? Why not try a pair of cold wet socks? Warming socks, as they are known in naturopathic circles, are the application of damp cold socks to the feet before bed. Their purpose is to increase blood flow and circulation to the feet. Most patients find this recommendation disconcerting at best, but they can be a great way to boost your immune system and help you relax a little. Truth be told they are not even that cold!
How does cold wet socks actually help your immune system? It seems improbable, but hydrotherapy is a great way to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph. The “warming” sock treatment focuses on increasing circulation to the feet. By increasing blood flow to the feet, overall circulation of blood and lymph are improved. This in turn impacts upper body congestion and the immune system. This is a great home treatment when you get that “am I getting sick?” feeling. Beyond cold and flus, the treatment is relaxing and can address concerns like stress, insomnia, and headaches.
I find that most people who are willing to try them become instant fans of the treatment. It is important to note that there is no research supporting their use. However, there are studies that demonstrate the benefits of hydrotherapy (water therapies) in a larger context. (1) Further, temperature regulation specifically foot temperature regulation and the effect on sleep has been studied. (2)
Is it a safe therapy? Yes, in general it is a safe therapy. As with anything, there are people who would not benefit from this application. If you have problems with circulation such as with Raynaud’s phenomenon or claudication, it is better to avoid this therapy.
How do you do it?
First, gather supplies. You will need one pair of light cotton socks, thicker wool socks, and cold water from the tap. It is a good idea to start off with warm feet. If your feet are cold a warm foot bath or shower can help. Next take a pair of light cotton socks and soak them in cold water. Wring them out thoroughly so they are cold and damp, but not soggy. Put them on your warm feet. Immediately put on the wool socks over the top of the cold damp socks. Go to bed. The cold sensation should not last very long, as your body rapidly warms the socks. Usually, they are dry within a couple of hours. It is important that the rest of your body stays warm so add an extra blanket as needed.
-Dr. Nicole Kilian, ND, LAC
Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist
Dr. Kilian asks a lot of questions because listening is the foundation of her practice. With degrees in both Naturopathic medicine and Acupuncture, Dr. Kilian is rooted in traditional medicines while keeping the pulse on evidence-based solutions. Dr. Kilian treats many different conditions, but is most interested in how the patient’s daily life is impacted. Dr. Kilian has a collaborative approach to treating her patients. Read more about Dr. Kilian.
- Sinclair, M. Modern hydrotherapy for the massage therapist. (2008)Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia.
- Ko Y, Lee JY. Effects of feet warming using bed socks on sleep quality and thermoregulatory responses in a cool environment. J Physiol Anthropol. 2018;37(1):13. Published 2018 Apr 24. doi:10.1186/s40101-018-0172-z