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Old 01-04-2011
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Hi, Cordwainer -- sorry to hear about your Raynauds. Peripheral circulation problems can be downright painful. Several rock climbers I know -- mostly women -- have faced similar issues: cold stone will drain the heat right out of your fingers. Some found relief thru steroidal treatments -- the capillary clamp-down seems to be hormonally triggered -- and thru meditation. That latter sounds goofy, but Raynauds does correlate with limbic responses to stress or anxiety, and meditation has been shown to reduce stress hormones in the blood. So if you have an interest in that line, a regimen of yoga or meditation or tai chi or deep breathing exercises may yield surprising results.

Other climbers have found hot-plunge therapy beneficial in the short- to medium-term. They basically stick their hands (& or feet) into water heated right to the edge of pain. Start at 'very warm' and ratchet up the water temps over time. After a few minutes, pull out your digits, let em cool to room temp, and plunge em again. The intent is to 'teach' your blood vessels to dilate by engorging them with blood over and over. Some think this cycling encourages greater elasticity in the vessel walls. It definitely increases general blood flow to the tissues in your hands and feet, which can accelerate healing and cause more capillaries to grow. Your hands should look bright pink when you pull them out of the hot water -- a sign blood flow has been amped up. Google "Murray Hamlet Raynaud's". And here's a couple informed articles:

Beyond cold feet: painfully cold fingers and toes may signal Raynaud's disease | Vegetarian Times | Find Articles at BNET

Peripheral circulation and cold adaptation in Raynaud's phenomenon - Medical Anthropology | Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients | Find Articles at BNET

Climbers with tendinitis problems do something similar but alternate hot plunges with ice baths -- again, the idea is to increase blood flow by repeatedly 'calling' for it via temperature variation. Probably the ice baths are not such a good idea w/ Raynauds. Usual advice: ask a doctor if they foresee any harm from experimenting with these techniques before proceeding. Best of luck!
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