Monday, September 14, 2009
Raynaud's disease is an affliction whereby the blood vessels of the
hands or feet become so severely constricted that fingers or toes can
become discolored, turning white initially and in some cases even blue
or purple. Although this condition most commonly targets fingers and
toes, it has been known to affect the nose, lips, and even the tips of
the ears in some people. Stress is thought to be a major contributor in
the development of what is termed primary Raynaud's, or Raynaud's
unrelated to secondary autoimmune disorders such as lupus, scleroderma
or rheumatoid arthritis.
Astonishingly, considering the level of side effects associated with
the common medications used to treat Raynaud's disease (calcium channel
blockers, vasodilators and alpha blockers), working to control the
constriction that lies at the heart of the disorder seems to be something
of an afterthought for many primary health care providers. The vasoconstriction
that is the defining signature of Raynaud's disease can
be regulated using targeted biofeedback as a means of bringing the
involuntary contraction under control. In my former capacity as biofeedback
specialist at the St. Helena Hospital- based Chronic Pain Program, I
observed a great many pain sufferers learn to spontaneously
increase their circulation as a byproduct of using biofeedback to learn
how to manage their pain.
I recently had the opportunity to observe how this same approach might
be received by Raynaud's disease individuals in my private practice,
and was not at all disappointed in the results. The first individual
was something of a classic Raynaud's disease sufferer, a 16 year old
young man with finger discoloration so prevalent that it could be
observed from a distance. He had been worked up by Raynaud's
disease specialists at UC San Francisco, but nothing they prescribed
seemed to give this individual any sort of relief for any length of
By his second training visit with me, he was managing his blood flow so
effectively that his circulation increased for several consecutive
minutes, much to both of our amazement. He seemed genuinely in awe that
he possessed any sort of influence over something that had plagued him
for so long; and seemed particularly surprised that it seemed so easy.
By his 4th training visit he was completely dilating his blood vessels
to normative levels, and shortly thereafter he seemed to feel that he
had gained enough of a skill package to continue to practice at home.
The other sufferer was a middle-aged woman who complained of dizziness
in addition to her vasoconstriction, which she stated actually
encompassed her entire forearm, in addition to the two fingers she
identified as the primary culprits. Her collection of symptoms proved
to be more complex and problematic, and only began to unravel after
many visits. She also had been worked up by physicians at UCSF, but
only began to experience symptom relief when we targeted eliminating
her tendencies toward chronic hyperventilation, which had the effect of
both clearing up her dizziness and dilating her blood vessels.
All of which serves to demonstrate that when it comes to investigating using nervous
system control as a means of correcting Raynaud's disease, one
needn't have cold feet.
If you are interested in learning more about biofeedback and how it might help you with your particular condition, please give me a call at 707-579-7982.