What can I do about my Raynaud’s?
This is the crux of this post, and here I will offer some hope if you’re a sufferer. Numerous studies have shown that a combination of measures drastically improves the situation. The key thing is that Raynaud’s seems to be cumulative, meaning that repeated attacks make it more likely that you will experience further attacks. Prevention is therefore as important as cure.
We need to try to trick the SNS into not initiating the vasoconstriction I described earlier. Remember what it’s trying to do: keep the rest of you warm. So keep the rest of you warmer than you’d ideally like to be and there’s less chance that it’ll be activated. Wear a hat. Wear thermals even if you don’t need them if you think there’s a chance that you’ll get a Raynaud’s attack. A great solution is to wear wristbands of the tennis variety. There are some specifically designed Raynaud’s bands which are made of plastic but the effect is the same – to trick the SNS into not switching on the vasoconstriction response. If you can get into the habit of doing this you will prevent attacks and over time this will downregulate the SNS response (and make the system less sensitive to cold), potentially preventing future attacks.
- Keep your hands dry as well as warm – cold wet hands experience more attacks than cold dry ones.
- Use hand, foot and body warmers, which are available now as chargeable devices and can even be wearable.
- Limit caffeine consumption.
- The most common association is with smoking, so if you do smoke you should bear that in mind.
- If these measures aren’t successful and you notice the skin on your hands or feet changing in any way, see your GP or a vascular specialist as there are some medications which can help.
Specific advice for climbers with Raynaud’s
Things get interesting when you consider that climbing is an exciting but also a stressful activity. We know now that the SNS triggers vasoconstriction in Raynaud’s which cuts off the blood supply to your fingers, and this system gets activated when we are stressed or excited. This is why climbers with an underlying predisposition are especially prone to Raynaud’s.
So if you’re a climber it’s critical to pre-warm your hands and your body before you climb, and do some meditation. So try to stay as calm as you can while you climb if you feel like an attack might be coming on. Take a break, warm up fully, and then get going again.
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or comments please email me via The Practice at 322. As well as running a general osteopathic practice, I am a climber and I also specialise in treating climbing injuries. I’m always happy to help with anything that might be troubling you.