Running with Raynaud's Syndrome

Ease the affects of the cold weather and don't let freezing fingers stop you running this winter.

Running with Raynaud's Syndrome

At least 10 million people in the UK suffer with Raynaud’s. If you're one of them, you’ll be painfully aware of the discoloured fingers, throbbing pins and needles and numbness in your hands and feet synonymous with the condition. These uncomfortable 'attacks' can last from anywhere between a couple of minutes to several hours. 

This phenomenon can be triggered by a number of things, from stress to hormones. Yet the most common occurrence is when the cold hits - throwing a problem in many people's way when out running and roaming in the winter. If you worry that Raynaud's will stop your cold weather running in its tracks, you'll be pleased to know that with a few small changes you can run pain-free.

What causes it? 

There are two types of Raynaud's which can affect your digits, recognised as primary and secondary. According to the NHS, primary Raynaud's is the most common and occurs by itself generally in the twenties and thirties. The secondary strain occurs as a result of other, often autoimmune, health conditions. There is no found cure for either strain, but secondary Raynaud's can be stopped if the primary illness is treated.

What causes it? 

There are two types of Raynaud's which can affect your digits, recognised as primary and secondary. According to the NHS, primary Raynaud's is the most common and occurs by itself generally in the twenties and thirties. The secondary strain occurs as a result of other, often autoimmune, health conditions. There is no found cure for either strain, but secondary Raynaud's can be stopped if the primary illness is treated.

For both forms of Raynaud's, each offers up the same reaction. As well as the blood vessels going into a temporary spasm, sensitive blood vessels become narrower than usual, restricting the flow of blood to certain body parts and resulting in numbness and a visible lack of blood flow.

How do we prevent it?

Raynaud's is manageable and the attacks can be eased by taking a number of precautions. Follow our simple steps and wave goodbye to frozen digits forever. 

Layer up

In preventing the cold from triggering your Raynaud's, it goes without saying that gloves and socks are a must. But it also pays to layer up your whole body. When exercising outdoors, Dr Lauretta Ihonor, a qualified doctor and nutritional geneticist, suggests you make sure you're toasty warm before bracing the weather. 'If you must exercise in cold environments, make sure you wrap up warm - not just your fingers and toes - but your whole body,' she says. 'Do so before you go out into the cold.'

Add warmth

If extra clothing isn’t helping, one of our most successful remedies are nifty heat packs. They aren’t too bulky and should the temperatures drop when you’re out you know warmth isn't too far away. These gel Gelert heat packs are really easy to take out and they won't break the bank.

Alternatively, try wearing two pairs of gloves. A thin cotton pair followed by a woolly set will work wonders for cold hands.

Split up your runs

If you suffer from severe Raynaud’s it's advisable to divide your longer runs into chunks, as the cold can lead to more severe problems for your affected body parts. 'You risk tissue damage if you continue running for hours with little/ no circulation to your hands and toes.’, Dr lhonor explains.

So, if it’s frosty outside, instead of a two hour ramble, split your run in half with a café stop warm-up in between.

Cut down on the caffeine

Sadly for the coffee lovers out there your morning fix could actually be making your Raynaud’s worse. Dr lhonor advises on lowering your daily energy boost to save your hands and feet, ‘Cut down on caffeine - especially if you take energy drinks or workout supplements before heading out to exercise. Caffeine is a known trigger of the blood vessel constriction.’

We aren't suggesting cut it out cold turkey, but opting for decaf coffee and herbal teas more regularly will help.

Warm-up post-run

As hard as it might be, when you're done exercising outside resist the temptation to put your hands and feet straight on to a hot radiator. Instead, Dr Ihonor suggests, a good shake out is best before heading for the heat, ‘Always encourage the circulation back into your extremities by performing big dynamic movements like arm circles, shaking your arms and legs out for several minutes after your run.'

And after you've had a good move around, reward yourself with some warmth and comfort, 'Get out of sweaty clothes immediately and have a warm (not hot) shower and a warm drink (caffeine free) to raise your core temperature,’ she adds.

Make lifestyle changes

Dr lhonor suggests that alongside keeping your body warm, addressing certain lifestyle changes can help. Stopping smoking as well as avoiding and mastering stress will help to control some occurrences.

If these factors don't ease your Raynaud's, there is also the option to try medication from your GP. For further information or advice on Raynaud's visit SRUK or head over to the NHS 

Dr Lauretta Ihoner is a qualified medical doctor and nutritional geneticist. For more information visit Dr Lauretta Ihonor

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