Raynaud’s Syndrome and playing the violin

June 29, 2020, 4:29 PM · Hi all,

This might be quite a specific question, but I am intrigued to see what others do.

I suffer from a circulatory condition called Raynaud’s Syndrome/Phenomenon. My hands go blue and white, often numb and can make violin and viola playing rather difficult. I also have erythromelalgia, which is the opposite. Hot, swollen and puffy hands. It’s all quite painful.

I’ve gotten quite good at managing the conditions, however, triggers such as stress (like performances), cold weather among other things, are often unavoidable.

Does anyone else suffer from this? How do you manage these? It would be good to see if there are other things I can try out.

*I have sought doctor advice, but their solution is that I stop playing, when actually playing is good for encouraging circulation*

Many thanks!

Replies (5)

June 29, 2020, 5:27 PM · My Raynauds came on pretty suddenly and intensely about ten years ago in addition to some other issues, like pretty much losing the ability to sweat, which made a couple summers very unpleasant. I went on a gluten free diet in 2011 and haven't looked back, as that sorted out a lot of things for me. I also picked up meditation a while ago, and practicing that consistently I believe has been helpful (Though I'm not always consistent). Sometimes I sit and meditate and my hands actually start to sweat. I also did Alexander Technique for years - I think that practices like AT, meditation, yoga and exercise calm the sympathetic nervous system so that your body learns to deal with stress without so much adrenaline, which constricts blood vessels.

I also have been doing yoga pretty consistently for the last 11 years, which I think really helped me out (at some point, my body began to sweat again pretty normally) and was lifting weights until I unfortunately injured myself last year. I think exercise is huge. I have taken supplements here and there, and I take vitamin D, K and B12. I try and eat sensibly and healthy and I think a lot of fruits and vegetables is good.

I also make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. My Raynauds almost never makes an appearance any more. I have a hunch that my case was perhaps some kind of secondary Raynauds, and may have been linked to other auto-immunity. I have tried all kinds of things and abandoned all kinds of things. I never tried bio-feedback, so I don't know about that. When it's cold, I cut up and boil ginger and drink that "tea".

I have no idea which parts of my regimen have been helpful, which have been harmful, which have been neutral and which have been placebo. These days, I'm mostly concerned with getting regular exercise, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and staying socially active and unstressed. Raynauds is really hard to pin down, and you probably will have to experiment, but unless you have something like scleroderma at the root of your Raynauds, you should be able to play violin. If you haven't had a full panel of blood work done to test for autoimmunity, I would go and do that.

June 29, 2020, 8:17 PM · My non-violin-playing oldest child had systemic autoimmune disease, including Raynauds symptoms. The best thing we did for her was to use handwarmers. Now my older violin-playing child uses them as well -- he has one that is USB rechargeable. This won't help when you get puffy/hot/red, but it will with the more typical symptoms. My oldest also got something similar to erythromelalgia and we would treat that with cold packs.
June 30, 2020, 1:38 AM · I have Raynauds since my youth. Diet helped me a lot, and especially the absence of alcohol.
June 30, 2020, 3:43 AM · Hi Christian,

I have secondary also, there are couple of other autoimmune conditions I have (not scleroderma though). Your info was really interesting to read, thank you very much. Ginger tea is one of my favourites! I’ll consider dietary things, I’m allergic to quite a few things. So that could be interesting, will chat to my dietitian.

Susan, sounds similar to me, it’s about getting the balance right with warmers or coolers.

Mattias, agreed. I’m caffeine free and rarely drink alcohol.

I really appreciate your input, thank you everyone!

Edited: June 30, 2020, 12:00 PM · Hi M,

Raynauds and auto-immune stuff is crazy-making to have to deal with. There's a lot of pseudoscience out there, and while I can't honestly make any definitive claims about any of the stuff I do, I think there are practical things that can be done. Even stuff that makes sense to me, like "lowering inflammation" through diet and other interventions, is something I kind of take on faith. Even my claim of me having "secondary" Raynauds is a self-diagnosis, since I never got a formal diagnosis for a doctor, but it's the narrative that makes the most sense to me, considering how many symptoms went away eventually.

I do go through an unreasonable amount of fish oil pills every month and I make my own kefir.

My celiac or gluten intolerant self-diagnosis lined up with a lot of symptoms I was having, and I think I found something that was tripping my body up, but I'll never really know for sure. I just know that whatever was going on with my body back then, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and having to try and be my own doctor about it wasn't fun.

I've done some other stuff like fasting in the past, but I'm more hesitant to recommend that even if it seemed to work just fine for me.

So I do want to be realistic about any of the "advice" I'm offering, but good luck in the journey!


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