Understanding Raynaud's

by Rachael Forrest

Image: Gettyimages.in

Image: Gettyimages.in

We commonly hear patients complaining of 'Raynaud's' when they are in for a treatment, especially at this time of year.  Raynaud's disease/sydrome or phenomenon is a common occurrence in (mainly) young women and men where the ends of fingers and/or toes lose blood flow and turn white.  Sometimes it is accompanied by numbness and tingling.  Generally, but not exclusively, the symptoms appear with colder weather.

I remember going to my GP many years ago with exactly these symptoms and was told "it's ok, my wife has it too" which was the extent of the information or treatment at that time.  I lived with it by always making sure I had gloves with me and bathing my hands in warm water when the symptoms occurred but it was still worrying as well as annoying.

The symptoms of Raynauds happen when the blood flow is excessively reduced (due to the constriction of or spasm in the blood vessels) as a result of cold or emotional stress.  The condition can also cause nails to become brittle with longitudinal ridges as a result of decreased blood supply.

Raynauds has two subdivisions - you have Primary Raynauds (Raynauds Disease) if the symptoms occur on and off due to the cold weather or stress.  Secondary Raynauds (Raynauds Syndrome) can be a side effect of, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist injury as well as  more serious illness such as anorexia and lupus.  It can be a predictor of disease in that it can occur up to 20 year before a more serious associated illness is diagnosed.

I found that acupuncture had a marked effect on my Raynauds.  I was being treated for something else (this was before I became an acupuncturist myself) and the practitioner used some needles in my hand, after which the symptoms of Raynauds have never returned.  I have since used it on patients with great effect.

Given that Primary Raynauds can be a symptom of decreased blood flow as well as stress it is wise to address these issues and this can be done in many different ways here at Albany Street.  Regular de-stressing and circulatory-boosting massage to the upper back, shoulders, neck and arms will be of great benefit as will Chinese Herbal Medicine.  Cranio Sacral Therapy can also help to unblock and release muscle pathways and knotted tissue whereas nutritional therapy works internally (as do the herbs) to boost circulation. 

Take care of your hands (and feet) as we use them constantly and it's only when something goes wrong that we pay any attention to them.  Maybe it's time to give them some love, before they disappear behind gloves and thick socks from now until next May!