What cold hands say about us
Do you remember mood rings? If your finger was warm, the ring would change colors, going from a cold black through green and turquoise, to a warm blue. The decoder page that came along with the ring said if the stone turned blue, your mood was relaxed and at ease. If your fingers were cold, the stone stayed black and you got the reading “tense and nervous.” But do cold hands really tell about your frame of mind?
A psychology experiment examined the effect of cold and warm sensations on your hands. They found that if your hands were warm, or touched something warm, like a cup of hot coffee, you felt warmer toward others, and less fearful.
From a massage therapists point of view, this has to do with circulation. The more circulation through tissues, the warmer the tissue. Ironically, with a cup of hot coffee, holding a cup of hot coffee in your hands dialates your blood vessels and brings circulation to your hands. (Drinking the coffee, ironically, is a vasoconstrictor and would actually make your hands colder.)
And yet, on a cold morning, It can be so frustrating to have cold hands, that don’t seem to respond even when you put gloves on!
So how does massage help?
Rubbing your hands together vigorously can help for a couple of minutes, but even then it doesn’t help long-term. That’s because the big gripping muscles of your hands are actually in your forearms. When they get tight, they constrict blood flow to our hands. These muscles are so powerful that climbers can suspend their whole bodyweight, hanging from their fingers.
Even if we aren’t rock climbers, we constantly use our fingers, hands and forearms. They do mini-marathons each day with common tasks like typing, carrying bags, holding the steering wheel, etc. Our hands and forearms are always in motion, and can get tight with all the activity they do for us.
As your forearm muscles release and get softer, the blood can flow through your arms more easily, and your hands get the circulation they need to be warm.
Steps to warm up cold hands
Time needed: 3 minutes
How to warm up your cold hands with a simple self massage
- Wrap your hand around your forearm, below your elbow.
- Lightly circle it around your forearm, feeling it glide over the skin.
You are helping to stimulate flow through your capillaries. Even light touch can be helpful. (Avoid doing deep pressure over the elbow joint, because there are a lot of nerves and blood vessels close to the surface: aka it being known as the “funny bone.”)
- As your tissues begin to relax, you can go a little deeper.
You are actually keeping your hand stuck to the skin, feeling the skin slide around your muscles and bones.
- Notice the sensations as you massage.
If you feel your forearm softening and relaxing, just continue at this same pressure. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of pressure to get great results.
If you are wanting to give yourself deeper pressure, however, here is what you do. As you are working, press your thumb more deeply into your forearm. Let it glide firmly over the muscles on the underside of your forearm.
- Shake out your hands and arms for about ten seconds, like you are shaking the circulation down to your fingers.
Let your arms rest by your sides and notice the sensations in your forearm.