Raynaud’s Phenomenon, the Finger Blues and Being an Artist

Sep 12, 2011 by

Raynald the Raynaud's Penguin

The Blues of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

In winter, my hands get really, really cold, which seriously hinders my ability to draw, paint and type without cursing and sticking my hands under my armpits every three minutes.

Most suckily, I happen to suffer from a strange thing called Raynaud’s Phenomenon; a common, mostly harmless but pain-in-the-ass condition, where your hands and feet lack proper circulation. I think that “phenomenon” is a bit of a misnomer, as it makes it sound much more exciting than it really is. You can click on that link above for more detailed information, but if you want to know what it feels like to have Raynaud’s, imagine a mild case of frostbite, or holding snow for too long til your hands hurt and probably turn all manner of lovely colours- blue, purple and red to name a few… good fun!

For creative types like myself, it can be hard to get your art on when your hands are meat popsicles… but over the years, through trial and error I’ve worked out that some things can help to alleviate that rotten coldness. Here’s a list of the various things I’ve tried, and how effective I’ve found them to be, in no special order (I use them in all sorts of varying combinations at different times).

1. Fingerless gloves

Useful for typing, poking things, painting and other stuff you need to be dextrous for. They can add a little warmth but I found while my palms stay toasty, my digits still purplify.

2. Fingerless USB Warming Gloves

Available from a hundred places on EBay and generally not more than $4.99 a pair, these are a freaking cool invention. I have some handy for long bouts of typing; the downside is that on really cold days, my very end fingertips can still be cold whilst the rest of my hand is near scorching. But, they may work better for other people! The price and convenience are definite pluses.
Aim for the ones that are fingerless, as I’m pretty sure the mitten styles will be completely useless for anything involving your digits.

3. The Desk Lamp

I have one of those tiny adjustable desklamps, that seems to throw out a crapload of heat. I recently realised that by positioning the light about 15 cm higher than my wrist, I could concentrate a reasonable amount of warmth onto my mouse-wielding hand. I really like being able to adjust the lamp higher or lower depending on the toastiness of my fingers at any one time, and best of all, it doubles as er, a desk lamp. Yip.
Usually available for $15-$25 from most supermarkets or variety stores.

4. Cup ‘O Tea

This is a personal fave, but can have you running to the bathroom a lot. Nevertheless, it inspires a love of tea, makes the day a bit more interesting, and most importantly, gives you something nice and hot to wrap your hands around in between typing and drawing sessions! Check out the amazing http://t2tea.com/ for some lovely warming ideas (I absolutely recommend the ginger white tea).

5. Medication

I’ve tried a few, and generally you’ll find that the ones prescribed for Raynaud’s are vasodilaters. This can have advantages and disadvantages. I didn’t find anything worth my time and money, that worked well enough, but that’s just me! Have a chat to your doctor because there are some cool remedies out there now that just might up your pinky temp a bit.

6. Big, warm, toasty heater

When all else fails, I turn to all-room heating. It’s not cheap and it can make the room stuffy, but I find keeping the air temp high is a sure-fire way to get rid of the er, blue blues.

7.Random Yoga/Rock Climbing Sessions

When I’m totally fed up with sitting in a stuffy room or suffering cold hands, I ditch it all and go do some yoga or climbing. The circulation boost has my fingers back in business in no time, and while I’m not exactly doing any art at this stage, at least I get some small relief from the cold aches!

So, until summer blessedly hits, I’ll be continuing with my favourite regime: loads of hot tea, my trusty desklamp, the heater and those awesome USB gloves for when I need a quick warm-up. Punctuated of course with random rock climbing sessions, who could blame me? In fact it looks like a really nice day outside today…

And hey, if you have any other suggestions or ideas on what’s worked well for you, feel free to drop a comment below. There’s no cure for this darned thing, so it’s always great to see what awesome survival tips others (artists and otherwise) have come up with!


  1. Danielle

    I have a microwaveable Cherry seed little pillow that I heat and reheat to help. 3 minutes in the microwave and then 10+ awesome minutes of warmth. Also a good collection of hand warmers in all of my ockets keeps me toasty. Thanks for the other ideas and suggestions. I really need to get a pair of those USB warming gloves!

  2. Jackie Healey

    I am a tattoo artist and I’m having trouble doing a tattoo on a lady friend of mine who has this same disease. It seems like no matter how hard I try to blend color she bleeds it out on her forearm. Is this associated to reynauds. I don’t have this problem on anyone else. And is there a trick to helping this process? If you could help it was be greatly appreciated

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