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Treating Raynaud's Syndrome with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Raynaud's syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s disease, causes a sudden constriction of the vessels supplying blood to the skin, largely affecting the fingers and toes. The symptoms, commonly known as an attack, may be triggered by cold temperatures or emotional stress. Although uncommon, other body parts may be affected, including the lips, nose, ears, and nipples.

The first stage in an attack includes feelings of cold, pain, and numbness. Being outside on a cold day or reaching into the freezer can initiate symptoms. In other cases, sudden bad news or feelings of anxiety may trigger an attack. The fingers may also turn white from lack of blood, or in severe cases, may turn blue, indicating a lack of oxygen.  When the blood supply returns to normal, prickly, stinging, or throbbing sensations may arise. The fingers will then start to feel warm and the color can change to red.  An attack can take as little as one minute, or it can last many hours.

Raynaud's syndrome is not life-threatening and usually just affects quality of life, but in rare cases, when it goes untreated, the tissue may become necrotic and gangrenous. Gangrene is a medical emergency and may require amputation. Most cases are mild though, and can be treated with lifestyle changes like wearing warm gloves and socks, and avoiding rapid temperature changes.   For cases that require medical treatment, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers a full range of treatment and lifestyle changes.

Since a cold environment or object is often responsible for triggering an attack, this may indicate a patient suffers from yang deficiency. Yang is a type of energy that is equated with heat, movement, expansion, daylight, the sun, and masculinity. Other symptoms of yang deficiency include feelings of cold (even when inside or dressed in warm clothing), a painful lower back or knees, and a weak pulse. When yang energy is low, blood circulation may slow down as a result. One of the strongest methods to revive yang is by using a heat therapy known as moxibustion, or moxa for short. This therapy uses the herb mugwort, which is dried and burned like incense. The smoke and heat penetrates the skin and increases yang energy and blood circulation, and can even bulk up the immune system.

In the case of Raynaud's syndrome, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may choose to enhance the overall yang in the body. A good option to achieve this is by applying moxa to the belly button, which is regarded as the center of the body. As the heat and smoke flood this area, the immune system receives a boost in energy. This boost is then shared with the rest of the body, including the fingers and toes, in the form of heat and yang energy. This can help eliminate or reduce attacks in the future.

If symptoms manifest due to unbalanced emotions or stress, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers other treatments to address that problem specifically. To help manage strong emotions or stress, certain acupuncture points on the ear may be needled. The ear point called Shen Men can induce a state of tranquility, reduce anxiety, clear the mind, and even reduce cravings for addictive substances.

Lifestyle changes may be recommended as well. Drinking 1-2 cups of warm cinnamon or ginger tea everyday can help support yang energy. Both these teas are warming in nature and will also help keep the digestive organs working properly. In the event of an attack, the hands and feet should be revived with warm (not hot) water. Light massage and movement may also provide some relief.

If you suffer from Raynaud's syndrome, Find an Acupuncturist to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can reduce the chances and severity of an attack.

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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