Hot aches

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The hot aches (also known among North American ice climbers as the screaming barfies[1][2]) is a very painful physical reaction to the cold, most often felt in the hands or feet. When exposed to the cold, blood stops flowing normally to the extremities. Later as the body warms up, the blood begins to flow again; this causes the pain known as the hot aches.[3]


Being exposed to cold areas for an extended period of time can lead to hot aches afterwards.

Poor circulation may also be a cause of hot aches. Circulation is highly affected by the reaction of sympathetic nervous system, which is sensitive to the cold. Accordingly, peripheral circulation is withdrawn to protect the organs at the sacrifice of the limbs.[4]


By using cognition techniques and aromatherapy oils rubbed into the affected area, the sympathetic nervous system and peripheral circulation can go back to a normal state earlier and less painfully. Continuous use can help stop this pain all together.[citation needed]

Warm and dry gloves can also be effective against hot aches.

In popular media[edit]

Andy Cave (2005 winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature) describes it well in his award-winning book Learning to Breathe: "I had the hot aches... As the blood began to creep back into my hands I bowed my head. It felt like small shards of broken glass were being hammered into my fingertips."

See also[edit]


  • Gadd, Will (2003). Ice & Mixed Climbing. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. ISBN 0-89886-769-X.
  • Kirkpatrick, Andy. "Cold Hands". Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  1. ^ Gadd, Will. p. 45. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Lane, Keese (18 November 2010). "Hot Aches and Scottish Grade VIII, 9 Start Winter Season". Alpinist Magazine. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  3. ^ Melvin, Andrew; George, Jacob (2016-09-12). "A Descriptive Study of Hot Aches: a Previously Unreported Winter Climbing Phenomenon". Sports Medicine - Open. 2. doi:10.1186/s40798-016-0062-z. ISSN 2199-1170. PMC 5020105. PMID 27747791.
  4. ^ cite web|last=Kirkpatrick|first=Andy|title=Cold Hands|url= May 2013