Cold hands and feet can range in severity. It can be the occasional discomfort or it can be frequent and extremely painful. Some cases of circulation issues are caused from the narrowing of blood vessels and blood vessels losing their elasticity. Other cases are more severe and can be a secondary issue to diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis.
Acupuncture has been shown to dilate blood vessels, increase waste removal in the blood, and is effective in improving circulation to the hands and feet. It also decreases inflammation and increases nerve response. I use additional therapies like cupping, moxibustion, and electrical stimulation of the acupuncture needles during the treatment of circulation issues.
Cupping is the use of glass cups with a temporary suction placed on the body. It is most commonly performed on the back but can also be done on the arms and legs. Cupping feels like a deep relaxing massage of the fascia. The cups are placed on the skin and pull up on the fascia allowing for new blood to circulate.
Electric acupuncture involves small alligator clamps placed onto the needles creating a simple but comfortable electron current. This amplifies the acupuncture effect, disperses stagnation and repairs damaged tissue.
Moxibustion is the burning of the dried herb mugwort on the body. This is extremely helpful for anyone suffering from cold hands and feet because it warms the acupuncture channels. Moxibustion also helps boost the immune system.
There are different methods to treating circulation issues. In general, there is a deficiency or an excess condition.
Deficiency conditions cause the blood to move slower, and present with symptoms of fatigue and catching frequent colds. In these cases, I will use acupuncture points to increase the circulation and strengthening the body. I will also use moxibustion to warm the body and boost the immune system.
Excess conditions cause stagnation, or blood and energy getting “stuck” in certain areas of the body. This can manifest as swelling in the joints that improves with movement, and is worse at the end of the day. In general, I will add cupping and electrical stimulation to the treatments. Cupping helps improve circulation and it helps detoxify the body. Electric acupuncture reduces stagnation by dispersing the energy out of the area and reduces pain.
Depending on the case, I may also suggest an herbal formula to assist with the acupuncture treatments. Chinese herbs are extremely safe when used properly and, in some circumstances, can speed up the healing process.
In addition to acupuncture treatments, here are great tips to help improve your circulation this winter!
· Wear a scarf, keep your neck warm. This will help keep your neck from getting stiff and reduce exposure to external pathogens.
· Drink hot beverages like hot tea and hot water with lemon to help keep your internal temperature up and increase blood flow to your extremities.
· Add warming herbs to your diet like cinnamon, ginger and garlic. Cinnamon helps detox the body. It also helps improve digestion and regulates blood sugar. Ginger fights allergens, boosts the immune system, and reduces nausea by strengthening the digestive system. Garlic is a natural antiviral and antibacterial. It is also a vasodilator which increases blood flow to our hands and feet.
I always offer complimentary consultations, stay warm this winter and see what acupuncture can do for you!
Alyssa Kuge Frain, MSAOM, L.Ac.