When thinking about the circulatory system, most of us think of it as the blood that is circulating throughout our veins, however there are two other systems that make up the circulatory system: the lymphatic system and pulmonary circulation.
For skin therapists, understanding and investigation of a client’s circulatory health should be in focus, as impedance of these systems can greatly affect our treatment approach.
Why is the circulatory system important for skin therapists to understand?
As a skin therapist, we often deliver advanced treatments, most of which induce skin inflammation. However, should the circulatory system be weakened, normal skin systems and processes such as wound healing, oxygen flow and skin cell turnover will likely be impaired.
Having an impaired circulatory system can also affect the skin by:
- The skin will age at a much faster pace than normal if there is a dysfunction to any one of these three systems.
- The body relies on all three of these systems to repair itself, which is vital when performing advanced skin treatments.
- If there is a wound or inflammation the body needs all three to be functioning so that it can adequately heal. (Connective tissue vs granulation tissue)
Understanding and recognising impairment with the lymphatic system, pulmonary system and/or a sluggish blood circulation can help prevent increased treatment risks, abnormal scar tissue formation and adverse responses to both treatments and homecare.
But how do I know if someone has circulatory issues?
The simplest indicator that there is an issue with the circulatory system is if someone presents to you with puffiness in their hands, feet, arms, legs and/or face.
During your consultation, if you suspect their may be a Circulatory System impairment, you may like to ask some of these leading questions:
- Do you ever feel numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?
This happens when there is restricted blood flow to the extremities of the body.
- Do your hands and feet feel cold and you cannot seem to get them warm?
If the blood and lymph are sluggish, temperature fluctuations will occur in the skin and nerve endings of the hands and feet.
- Do you have joint and muscle cramping at night or even during the day?
Impaired circulation may cause pain in the legs, feet, arms and hands. Leg pain is often worse when a person sits or stands for long periods at a time.
- How do you heal on your legs and feet especially?
Poor circulation affects the body`s ability to heal, which can lead to ulcers in the legs and feet. Ulcers may develop when blood pools in the veins of the legs, which causes swelling beneath the skin.
- Do you have any varicose veins?
Poor circulation can cause varicose veins. These veins make it harder for the blood to continue to circulate.
- How is your digestive system – do you suffer from constipation or diarrhea?
Your digestive system relies on blood flow, so that fatty deposits and bad bacteria does not accumulate in the digestive tract.
- Do you feel tired and fatigued?
Poor blood flow can impact energy levels causing fatigue.
- Do you find it difficult to concentrate and remember things?
Poor circulation can have an impact on brain functioning which could contribute to memory loss and difficulty in concentrating.
- Does you skin become pale at times?
If there is not enough blood that reaches tissues, the skin may appear pale or blue. If blood leaks from the capillaries the surrounding areas may appear a purple colour.
What treatment approach should we take if someone presents with poor circulation?
First and foremost, we would want to avoid treatment courses that involve active stimulation of the wound healing response or causing moderate amounts of inflammation.
Treatments of a gentler nature should be performed, as it is likely that the client is also experiencing other skin conditions and symptoms due to lack of toxin elimination, lack of oxygen supply and lack of vital skin nutrients being delivered. There are some amazing clinical treatments that can be performed, such as Enzyme Therapy, which are gentle enough to be performed to an otherwise impaired skin, but also aid in increasing circulation/blood flow.
In-treatment techniques such as massaging will help the circulatory systems though the movement and stimulation of blood and lymphatic flow. Client’s may wish to continue massage at home with modalities such as Gua Sha or a body brush for the body.
Lifestyle changes may include the addition of exercise if they don’t do this already, along with drinking plenty of water to assist with toxin removal and stop the blood from thickening.
Gut health should also be on the agenda for anyone with suspected Circulatory issues. Another important role of the lymphatic system is the role it plays in the absorption of fats from the intestine. The lymphatic system relies on the blood circulation to move around the body, so should it become impaired in any way, the risk of lymphoedema can increase as well as diseases such as Crohn`s.