As we learnt in a previous blog, Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition of the fingers and toes that causes restricted blood flow and colour changes. There are many management strategies and treatment options for Raynaud’s and it is just about finding out what works best for you. Depending on the type of Raynaud’s you have, the options vary a little. There are certainly things you can do to help decrease your symptoms.

The first step would be to work with your doctor and therapist to determine which type of Raynaud’s you have and if medication is required. Calcium channel blockers are a common medication used in treatment.  These work by dilating the small blood vessels therefore increasing blood flow.

Self-management strategies include ceasing smoking as nicotine impairs your circulation, avoiding staying stationary for long periods of time, keeping active and exercising to improve body warmth and blood flow, dressing for the occasion and using external heat sources like wheat bags, warm water soaks or “Hot Hands” to warm the hands and prevent the attack progressing.

Drink warm water and avoid chilled food from the fridge as this will drop your internal body temperature. Dietary changes can also assist circulation and health. Foods such as ginger and chilli are great for increasing metabolism and heat in the body. Turmeric is another great natural healer of inflammation. A dietician or nutritionist can provide further advice here.

In extreme circumstances where the circulation is impaired frequently and/or for long periods of the time, the tissue in the finger tips can die due to lack of blood flow and pitting or ulcerations can develop. If this happens to you and an infection occurs, your hand therapist can assist in applying appropriate dressing to the fingers to support healing and you may need to see your GP to obtain antibiotics.

Your therapist can assist in identifying the symptoms of Raynaud’s and providing education on the condition. Triggers specific to your condition will be brainstormed and management strategies provided. Treatment options and lifestyle changes that can assist will also be discussed.

If you have any concerns with painful or cold fingers, or if you would like to discuss altered circulation in your hands, please contact Riverina Hand Therapy for an individualised assessment and management plan.

Written by Caitlin Ring, Occupational Therapist, Riverina Hand Therapy