Thermoregulation During Exercise

Exercise-induced hyperthermia has been more widely studied in recent years. Generally speaking, people with tetraplegia have a greater increase in body temperature with exercise than people with paraplegia even when exercising at similar output/exertion levels, likely due to people with tetraplegia having more difficulty in dispersing endogenously produced heat (Price and Campbell 2003). It is also common for people with tetraplegia to take longer to cooldown after exercise. Some research suggests the absence of temperature regulation in all levels of complete SCI; Boot et al. (2006) found that mean body temperature can decrease in people with SCI after exercising in the cold, and Price and Campbell (2003) found that neither persons with paraplegia nor those with tetraplegia show any alteration in thigh skin temperature despite changes in core body temperature post-exercise.

Differentiating between those with and without temperature dysregulation may be helpful in discerning those with autonomic incompleteness (whether or not there is motor and sensory completeness). Both core body temperature and skin temperature above and below the level of injury can be helpful in assessing temperature and autonomic function (Krassioukov et al. 2007). Regardless, precautions should be taken for people with SCI when exercising in the cold or in the heat. Techniques as common and simple as cool-water foot baths before or during exercise can be successful in restoring a normal body temperature (Boot 2006Hagobian et al, 2004).