What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon and how Osteopathy may help?

Practitioner Guest Blog – Annette Orzel, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner


What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon? 


Raynaud’s Phenomenon (RP) is a type of vascular disease in which fingers may turn white, blue or red in response to certain triggers such as cold or stress. This spasm of the blood vessel occurs when there is a decrease in blood flow to the fingers and it can be associated with a “pins and needles” sensation (numbness) or discomfort. 


This disorder of blood circulation may also occur in the toes, and less commonly of the ears and nose. Although painful and frustrating, let’s explore deeper what Raynaud’s Phenomenon is and how Osteopathy may help.


Type of Raynaud’s Phenomenon


There are two types of Raynaud’s Phenomenon referred to as primary and secondary. 


Primary Raynaud’s has no known causes and occurs in patients who do not have another rheumatic disease. While symptoms can be uncomfortable, there is no danger or damage to the body. 


Secondary Raynaud’s is “secondary” to another condition, and can include scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory myositis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Often the onset of secondary RP is usually after the age of thirty.


Cause of Raynaud’s Phenomenon


As stated earlier the cause for this vascular disease is largely unknown. There is a possibility that some blood disorders may cause it by increasing the blood thickness due to excess platelets or red blood cells. Contributing factors may also include abnormal nerve control of the blood-vessel diameter and nerve sensitivity to cold exposure.


Primary Raynaud’s Phenomenon typically affects women under the age of 30, it often begins between the ages of 15-25. Whereas the onset of secondary RP is later in life, usually after the age of 30.


Some risk factors for Raynaud’s include:


  • Frostbite – which may cause damage to the blood vessels
  • Exposure to vibration – including power tools such as chainsaws and jackhammers may cause “hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)” or “Raynaud’s phenomenon of occupational origin”
  • A connective tissue or autoimmune disease
  • Chemical exposure
  • Cigarette smoking

How Osteopathy May Help with Raynaud’s Phenomenon?


The goal of the osteopathic treatment is to increase circulation to the limbs as to prevent / lesson the frequency of flare ups for the patient. Resolving the lesion or disease process may be possible in the early stages of the disease if the patient continues to actively seek treatment and is aware of the triggers to avoid flare ups.


When assessing a patient that suffers from Raynaud’s Phenomenon it is important to acknowledge how long the disease has been present and if the patient has any other underlying health conditions. If the patient is relatively healthy and has vitality, the compensations throughout the body may be minor and can be easily addressed. Although this disease affects local areas, such as the fingers and the toes, the body may react to this and create lesions in conjunction with the neurological stimulation which decreases circulation to these areas.


Managing the symptoms and improving overall health for the patient is the goal as this is potentially something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Plasticity in the muscles is important for good circulation. Plasticity in the muscles is important for good circulation. Lymphatic drainage is important to prevent inflammation and stagnation of fluids, and joint mobility from the spine and the fingers themselves is important to keep the passageway for all of NAVL to flow freely.


Author, Annette Orzel, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner


Annette Orzel is an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner in Hamilton, Ontario. She completed her osteopathic education at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy in 2020. Prior to osteopathy, she graduated from McMaster University with an undergraduate degree in BSc. Honours Kinesiology. She’s always had an interest in anatomy, physiology and biomechanics, so it only made sense to follow her passion for the human body by pursing a career in Osteopathy. 


Want to learn more about Annette? Check out her profile or follow her at @annette.osteo