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As all sufferers will know Raynaud’s Syndrome is a condition where the blood vessels go into spasm and cause extremities, such as the fingers to go white and sometimes blue and dead. As the spasm recedes the fingers turn red, tingle and are painful. The good news is that we can help people with Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Blood flow is controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System. Some of the impulses for the Autonomic Nervous System travel through connective tissue. If the connective tissue is tight the Autonomic Nervous System doesn’t function correctly. Also tight connective tissue physically restricts blood flow.

By reducing connective tissue tension the autonomic control of the blood vessels improves and there are fewer spasms lasting for a shorter time. By reducing the tension in the connective tissue around the blood vessel walls themselves the overall circulation to the area improves.

A Specialised Physiotherapy technique know as Connective Tissue Manipulation (CTM) is available which reduces the tension in the connective tissue and helps those with Raynaud’s Syndrome.

The body is wrapped in a fine mesh of tissue which reaches and envelops every part of the body. You’ve probably seen it in meat – the white membrane that goes round a muscle in a leg of lamb or the tough fatty looking fibres that are sometimes found in stewing steak is all connective tissue.

Connective tissue can vary from a very fine membrane to a thick sheet. It is a continuous sheet going round every muscle, every joint, through the skin, around the stomach – everywhere. Every blood vessel is wrapped in connective tissue and it also passes through sheets of connective tissue as they criss-cross the body.

Connective tissue forms part of the automatic side of the nervous system. The individual fibres of connective tissue are filled with fluid, which allows nerve impulses to pass signals to and fro between the brain and all parts of the body. If connective tissue is tight the autonomic system cannot function properly.

Connective tissue tension increases with age and with stress such as difficulties at work or illness in the family.

When there is a problem in an area the body puts an ‘elastoplast’ around the damaged part to protect it. This means that the fibres are tighter, less elastic and therefore less forgiving. The circulation overall is not as good and the body finds it more difficult to adapt to a change in temperature

CTM is a Physiotherapy technique performed using the soft pads of the fingers to move one layer of skin on the layer below. This movement creates a short, sharp, stretch reflex creating an impulse which spreads out through the connective tissue. The patient’s brain appreciates the impulse as if it were a ‘cut’ or a ‘scratch’. The tighter the connective tissue the bigger the stretch reflex and therefore the sharper the ‘cut’ feels to the patient.
The impulse passes through the fluid within the connective tissue fibres getting them to soften and stretch and become a bit more elastic. The release in tension around the blood vessel walls allows more blood to flow into the affected area. Softening the connective tissue also allows more movement to occur within the skin and across the joints.

Treatment often starts at a distance from the affected part gradually working closer to the problem area. The benefits of CTM are cumulative. Once the tension has been lowered by treatment the reduction is maintained. Further reduction in connective tissue tension occurs with each additional treatment. The degree to which the reduction in tension is maintained depends upon the level of stress introduced into the system by the patient’s lifestyle.

This technique is learnt at postgraduate level by physiotherapists in the UK although it is practised more widely on mainland Europe.