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Cold hands and physiology

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Cold hands and physiology

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:41 am

I've always had cold hands.

Even with glove liners on, in moderately cold weather my hands go from warm and toasty on the uphill to numb in minutes. This is of course exacerbated by any dealings with metal objects (e.g. Ice tools/skis/crampons etc). I'm happy with my glove layering system and think the problem lies more in the genetic/physiological limitations with my hands.

Are there any daily stretches/exercises/treatments that people have had success with in improving blood circulation and staving off numb hands? I remember reading once that old-timer mountaineers used to walk around with snow-balls in each hand to acclimate before climbs, but that just sounds freaking miserable.

Also open to the idea of circulation specific nutrition. I've been taken garlic supplements and tried aspirin, both with little effect.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby randalmartin » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:56 am

Do you use trekking poles? I have found that one of the major problems with trekking poles is that my grip on them results in much less blood flow to my hands. So for colder weather especially I try to avoid use of my trekking poles as much as I can.

Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby AndYouSeeMe » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:03 am

randalmartin wrote:Do you use trekking poles? I have found that one of the major problems with trekking poles is that my grip on them results in much less blood flow to my hands. So for colder weather especially I try to avoid use of my trekking poles as much as I can.


Completely agree with you. My hands start freezing in the winter if I am gripping my trekking poles. When I have still wanted to use them I just put them in between my back and pack perpendicular to my body. After warming up my hands I grab them again. This way is nice because it doesn't involve any stopping and finagling with the poles.

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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby GregMiller » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:06 am

randalmartin wrote:Do you use trekking poles? I have found that one of the major problems with trekking poles is that my grip on them results in much less blood flow to my hands. So for colder weather especially I try to avoid use of my trekking poles as much as I can.


I've actually found the opposite - It gives my fingers something to do, even the little bit of flexing helps me with blood flow in my hands, plus you have something insulating inside your hands, rather than just air.

I've also had problems with cold fingers, but I think (and feel free to call me on this if you know better) that it comes from coming too close to frostbite too many times as a kid. I always have more on my hands than most people I hike with.
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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby geojed » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:14 am

I agree with trekking poles helping hands stay warm due to keeping active. Even in the summer without trekking poles my hands become swollen and heavy/lethargic due to just hanging there but with trekking poles that never happens.

WRT hands being cold I often have the opposite problem. My hands get too HOT and start sweating, especially if there is little-no wind, then I get to the summit where it is windy and my gloves are soaked from the inside and my fingers get cold then due to the wind. That's what happened to me on Spread Eagle Peak last Winter. It's a Catch-22 for me in deep/steep snow, gotta keep gloves on in case I slip and put my hand down in the snow, meanwhile my hands are cooking inside my gloves! #-o

I've found that I am a very "exothermic" person. :onfire:
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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby randalmartin » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:29 am

geojed wrote:I agree with trekking poles helping hands stay warm due to keeping active. Even in the summer without trekking poles my hands become swollen and heavy/lethargic due to just hanging there but with trekking poles that never happens.

WRT hands being cold I often have the opposite problem. My hands get too HOT and start sweating, especially if there is little-no wind, then I get to the summit where it is windy and my gloves are soaked from the inside and my fingers get cold then due to the wind. That's what happened to me on Spread Eagle Peak last Winter. It's a Catch-22 for me in deep/steep snow, gotta keep gloves on in case I slip and put my hand down in the snow, meanwhile my hands are cooking inside my gloves! #-o

I've found that I am a very "exothermic" person. :onfire:


Sounds like you really don't have an issue with cold hands to begin with. The reason your hands are swollen and heavy is simply because blood pools in your hands when they are swinging low all day. With trekking poles you hands are squeezing something and thus keeping the blood from pooling there.

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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby randalmartin » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:32 am

farcedude wrote:plus you have something insulating inside your hands, rather than just air.
A trekking pole grip isn't insulation, dead air trapped in your Mitten insulation is. Squeezing a trekking pole pretty much eliminates the benefit of that insulation (compressing it).

One other point to the OP. I always carry hand warmers in the winter and always open the package and use them at the start of the day. Don't wait until it's too late and your hands are already cold. I have made this mistake before and was forced to turn back on Mt. Ouray when I couldn't get my hands warm again no matter how hard I tried.

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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:36 am

randalmartin wrote:Do you use trekking poles? I have found that one of the major problems with trekking poles is that my grip on them results in much less blood flow to my hands. So for colder weather especially I try to avoid use of my trekking poles as much as I can.


It's no so much a problem while moving (my hands are always warm while moving) and I've never been able to tell a difference between using and not using trekking poles. The problem lies more in how quickly my hands go numb when I stop, especially compared to friends doing the same things as I am without there hands getting cold (e.g. removing skins and buckling boots in transition from skinning to skiing).

Like I said, I'm fairly confident the problem lies in genetics and poor circulation and I'm more looking for methods to improve upon that. Hand warmth is directly proportional to blood flow and to me, cold hands means poor blood flow and that's what I want to improve, somehow.
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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby randalmartin » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:57 am

The only other suggestion I have, but not one from much experience, is compression clothing. I have heard people talk wonders about their benefit. Just wondering if wearing compression sleeves on your arms might help improve circulation in/out of your arms and ultimately to your hands.

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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby SchralpTheGnar » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:00 pm

Have you been wearing a fake beard?

Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby MonGoose » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:33 pm

Dave B,
I have always struggled with having cold hands. I can partly attribute it to being tall and lanky (6'1"). Aside from good gloves and the occasional hand warmer in the winter, I have found some success in swinging my arm (one at a time) in a rotation sweeping from my thigh to above my head 5-10 times; then repeating in the opposite direction. This motion sends blood down into the hands which may hurt for a few seconds but will warm up your hands.

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Re: Cold hands and physiology

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:26 pm

randalmartin wrote:The only other suggestion I have, but not one from much experience, is compression clothing. I have heard people talk wonders about their benefit. Just wondering if wearing compression sleeves on your arms might help improve circulation in/out of your arms and ultimately to your hands.


That's a really good idea actually, I might have to try that!

SchralpTheGnar wrote:Have you been wearing a fake beard?


Nope, this manliness is all natural :-&

MonGoose wrote:I have found some success in swinging my arm (one at a time) in a rotation sweeping from my thigh to above my head 5-10 times; then repeating in the opposite direction. This motion sends blood down into the hands which may hurt for a few seconds but will warm up your hands.


I've had similar success at bringing my hands back, but can't seem to do it enough to keep them from going away in the first place.
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