Can spa services offer benefits for Raynaud’s Disease?

Some people experience periods of time when their fingers or toes turn color to white or blue and go numb.  This phenomenon is called Raynaud’s disease and it is fairly common, affecting 5-10% of the population.

What is Raynaud’s Disease?

My typical post cool weather run "trick" when a couple of my fingers turn white and go completely numb."

My typical post cool weather run “trick” when a couple of my fingers turn white and go completely numb.”

Raynaud’s disease is a condition characterized by periods of time when the fingers or toes (sometimes nose and ears) turn color and go numb due to an interruption of blood flow to the extremities due to a vasospasm (Mayo Clinic).  Often they will turn white, sometimes blue, and then red when blood flow returns.  Typically people with Reynaud’s feel numbness in the affected areas during an episode and may experience pain when blood flow returns.  The most common cause of a flare up is exposure to cold, though sometimes people experience the phenomenon during times of stress.

Raynaud’s may be primary (meaning it isn’t due to an underlying cause) or secondary (the phenomenon is due to a condition such as nerve damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.).  According to Mayo Clinic, some medications can also cause the Raynaud’s phenomenon.

The majority of people who experience Raynaud’s symptoms do not report it to a physician, (Raynauds.org) but it is worth noting at your next medical visit as occasionally Raynaud’s disease presents before a more serious disorder.

Nails may turn blue during an episode and over time,  nails might develop ridges related to Raynaud's.

Nails may turn blue during an episode and over time, nails might develop ridges related to Raynaud’s.

Can spa treatments help with Raynaud’s disease?

While I could not find research on spa services and Raynaud’s disease, some services may help with some of the causes and help to reduce some of the symptoms.

  • Deep tissue or orthopedic massage may be able to help people with wrist, arm, and hand injuries (like carpal tunnel) that may be contributing to the Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Hot stone massages will likely feel great and boost circulation for individuals who are perpetually cold, but aren’t going to “cure” Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • If you notice an increase in Raynaud’s phenomenon at times of emotional stress, you might consider regular massage or spa services you enjoy that have been shown to lower stress.
  • If you are self conscious about the way your nails look as a result of Raynaud’s disease (sometimes nails can become “spooned” or develop ridges) a professional manicure and application of a shimmer or glitter polish can help to disguise any nail disfiguration due to the Raynaud’s.
  • Products like Kneipp mineral baths are great to purchase for an at-home spa experience to warm up during a flare-up.  I personally use the Kneipp mineral baths after every cooler-weather run to relax my muscles and bring blood flow back to my hands and feet.

Can spa services trigger Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Spa services aren’t likely to trigger Raynaud’s phenomenon unless you get cold.  It would be wise to let your provider know any concerns.  Options to make sure your hands and feet don’t get too cold:

  • Ask if you can keep your socks on during a massage until the therapist works on your feet (I usually do this!)
  • Ask for an extra blanket on hand in the room.
  • During pedicures or manicures, after a soak in water, ask for your foot or hand to be wrapped in a towel so it isn’t exposed to air
  • Cut the toes off of a pair of old socks and bring them to put on before your nail technician polishes your nails.  While your toes will be exposed, at least your feet will be warmer while your polish dries.  You can cut the finger tips off of an inexpensive pair of “one-size-fits-all” stretch gloves for a winter manicure.
  • After a service like a body wrap or hot stone massage, make sure to have plenty of warm clothes and gloves (especially in winter) or grab a cup of hot tea to hold after your service so you aren’t shocked by a temperature change.

If you are one of many of us who experience discomfort from Raynaud’s, don’t be afraid to speak up when getting a massage, skin care, or nail care service!  Your provider will be happy to make adjustments because he or she wants to make sure you can get full enjoyment and benefit from their work without worrying about your fingers and toes going numb!

Resources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/raynauds-disease/basics/causes/con-20022916

http://www.raynauds.org/

http://www.nailsmag.com/article/82109/what-is-raynaud-s-disease

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3721961/

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