on... poor circulation

 (not my photo btw)

Every winter, I suffer. Actually, it's not just me that suffers, the whole family suffers. My darling wife suffers directly from the cold touch of my hands, and indirectly from the moaning and misery that the cold brings to my hands and feet. The rest of the family suffer the indignity of me moaning about closing doors to keep heat in rooms (yes, even if you are due to exit the room pretty quickly).

I suffer from poor circulation in my hands and feet. When my hands get hold, they go grey, then white as the blood drains out. This is an odd sensation in itself, but worse if yet to come. When the blood returns, if it flows too quickly then you get a pulsating feeling going through your fingers. Slightly painful, but you know that it's damaging your digits as it goes, causing chilblains - hard patches of skin that become swollen, irritated - itchy and painful. It can take weeks for chilblains to go away, offering plenty of opportunity for them to get worse or take over other bits of your hands. I believe that the official term is known as Reynauds syndrome.

Sometimes, you can go through the whole cycle of cold, dead fingers, pulsating fingers and pain during a single run.

Equally, going to an extremely hot environment before leaving for the car can cause the exact same problem - it's the temperature shift that you need to watch for. Sometimes you can deliberately avoid a place (e.g. no trips to the Sauna in the Winter), but a bit difficult when visiting elderly relatives who insist on creating an indoor furnace.

I have developed a temperature-based agrophobia, based mainly on concerns about damaging my fingers and toes. This may sound a bit rubbish, but I value these body parts both for work and play, and I am trying to limit damage as far as possible. I starting to rely on temperature estimates in deciding whether to leave the house or not, and also to ensure that I'm wearing the appropriate protection before stepping out.

I've recently had the "pleasure" of watching Frozen. Imagine my delight in having something in common with one of the major characters. Yes, when Elsa removes her glove and touches something, it instantly turns to ice. I shared a knowing look with my wife at this point!

No point in just moaning about a problem, I've been doing some research. This problem has affected me for years, even before I started with Running - some things I have been doing for a while, but here's what I came up with:

It's key to keep the core warm, so a heat retaining top with long sleeves (not easy to get for me). A few layers on top - T-shirt, another warm top and a day-glo jacket if at night. Haven't invested in any new leggings yet as my legs seem strangely OK with the cold (though this may change soon). Compression socks aren't just for compression (I originally invested in these to bridge the gap between my socks and the bottom of my leggings). To cover your ankle is good, but these socks go halfway up your shins too! I've re-discovered boots too for normal days - just lovely with fleecey linings. 
Gloves are discussed below. Never tried mittens - meant to be good as your fingers are all stored together to retain the heat between them. Not too much of a fan myself, though you can test your age with this - a friend recently exclaimed "I've lost my mittens" to which I instantly replied with "you silly kitten". If that means nothing to you, ask your mum :)
I've just found something on the Internet that goes with something that Nick Davies mentioned. Apparantly, keeping your wrists warm help with the circulation in the fingers. Nick suggested sweatbands, though there is a product on sale that is a bit more suited. I will do further investigations into tight, warm piping that might do the same. Suggestions welcome.

Yes, this helps to get the circulation pumping, but with reservations. As per other activities, if you go too quickly from a cold state, then you can experience all of the problems mentioned as the blood flows back into your fingers.
Warm-ups are best done in the house before venturing out - yes, it may look a bit daft (as if I'd be worried about that), and it can get a bit warm as you're wearing your heat hear, but better to do it this way than to get fifteen minutes into a run before you can feel your fingers.

Sat at a desk can mean hands getting pretty cold. Hand rubbing, stress balls or even just a tennis ball keeps fingers active and keeps circulation going.

Keep hands at a constant temperature

  • Have different types and thicknesses of gloves available to cover variations in temperature.
  • Put gloves on indoors at least a few minutes before leaving the house - trap some warm air in there first.
  • Thin gloves can be useful (SportsDirect do some good ones) - these can be used on their own in cold buildings or as a liner under thicker "windproof" gloves.
  • Don't wear woollen gloves in the wet (or where there's any chance of them getting wet).
  • Never tried silk gloves (open to gifts though - XL), but they are meant to be good. I have tried white cotton gloves, but I just got mistaken for being a Michael Jackson fan.
  • Keep hands away from the fire / direct heat source. Rapid warmth will cause inflammation. pain and / or chilblains.

Creams and Potions
I've been a fan of Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream for some time. This helps, as does hand cream with lavender and peppermint. Lavender gel is good for cooling chilblains too.


Note: I have no medical qualifications and the following details represent research that I have performed. Do not take my word for the effectiveness or safety of any of these products. Consult a qualified Medical Practitioner for clarity on your own situation.

  • Gingko Biloba
  • This herb is said to increase circulation, which in theory includes the extremities. It is also suggested that it can help with cognotive function (brain / short term memory), and ahem... other functions that benefit from increased circulation (for which I do not have any requirement). I have used Gingko Biloba in the past and I remember it working (though only the really expensive one). After a while, I did suffer a little side effect of feeling more anxious than normal, so I dropped it. I am starting with it again, but monitoring its effect.
  • Fish or Flaxseed Oil
  • Omega-3 is meant to be good for improving circulation. Two options here - covering Vegetarians and those who value their breath.
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Berocca or the cheaper alternatives provide support with B12 and other B vitamins.
  • Porridge
  • I found that this helped some years ago (I am clearly better than I used to be). It also had the delightful side-effect of building a little bit of flesh on my bum.
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Nearly put this in just for the sake of it, but it came up during research. Needs to be dark though, 85% proof - Cadburys is mainly fat, so that won't help. You can go higher in cocoa solids, but that's about the limit that I can take.

I hope that some of the above may help if you suffer the same affliction - happy to discuss remedies. If not, then it might offer you an idea of how lucky you are. That's cold done. Snow though, just don't get me started on snow.

Thanks for listening, Nigel.