I developed a condition called ‘Raynaud’s’ at some point in the last few years. Recollection of its onset is blurred, as the symptoms I suffer with are ‘just’ cold hands. Occasionally my feet would have similar and debilitating symptoms, but not that often. These days I have to be completely aware of how warm my whole body is, and especially my hands are, even in a central-heated warm house. I hug hot drink mugs. I volunteer eagerly to wash the pots so my hands are immersed in hot water. I go outside with at least two pairs of gloves most of the time, and usually handwarmers and overmitts when I’m heading out running or walking in the hills.
Once my hands get cold, only a long time in a warm place will recover the feeling and eradicate the numbness. On one occasion it took my hands about four hours to return to normal. When my hands ‘go’ I feel like I have wooden stumps on the end of my arms. I can’t type, write or function very well. The pain and cold take away my concentration from anything, so if this occurs outside I’ll suddenly feel clumsy and not able to focus on the path ahead of me. Raynaud’s is more than ‘just’ getting cold hands – the Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association state:
“Raynaud’s symptoms occur when small blood vessels in the body’s extremities become over-sensitive to even slight changes in temperature. The blood supply is temporarily disrupted – usually to fingers or toes, although ears, nose and other parts can go white, blue and red when they warm up. Pain, numbness and tingling are common experiences in an attack, which can be precipitated by exposure to something cold or even a slight change in temperature. Even experiencing stress or strong emotion can a trigger a painful Raynaud’s attack!”
Treatment at the less severe end of attacks is in the form of self management, but if things progress then a medication called Nifedipine may be prescribed by a doctor. This is a calcium channel blocker – which works by encouraging your blood vessels to widen. Personally I’d rather self-manage than take medication as I don’t want to add side-effects of drugs (including headaches, dizziness, swelling) into my life if I can help it.
On Tim’s acupuncture course with the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists his tutor had suffered with Raynaud’s. Interestingly, since he has been using needles on himself for demonstrations and to treat some things he has completely stopped having any raynaud attacks. Bingo! He’s no idea how, but using needles has coincided with the condition disappearing. Not an evidence based study, but if it works, who’s to not give it a go! We’ve all heard of the placebo effect and if that’s what is happening they why not give it a go?
So yesterday was the first in a series of acupuncture treatments to see how it will help with reducing (eradicating?) my raynauds. I have to admit, that even though I have had acupuncture previously I am always a little anxious. It’s not a fear of needles for me, but I seem to have a very low pain threshold and sometimes the occasional needle stings a bit when it’s put in – all a perfectly normal reaction and I can honestly say that after a few seconds or a minute I can hardly tell where the needles are.
During yesterday’s treatment Tim placed 10 needles in various points that were taken from an acupuncture textbook. Not entirely scientific, but we have to start somewhere – and as acupuncture was originally an outcome based modality – if these have worked for Raynaud’s in someone else’s experience, why not try them and see if they work? With some points I had strong sensations, some just a feeling of warmth, and with others I could barely perceive they were there. After they’d been in for about 15 minutes the needles were painlessly taken out and all I was left with was a vague sensation where one or two of them had been. We’re going to do treatments three times a week and I’ll be monitoring how my hands go.
In conjunction with Acupuncture Awareness Week 7-13 March 2016 we will be offering free taster sessions if you want to try out Acupuncture. Call us to book in on 07985251185. Free taster appointments will be available from Monday 7th to Friday 11th March during the daytime and evenings.
For another perspective on acupuncture, click here to read what Cat had to say after seeing Tim for back pain.