Our hands do so much for us. They are capable of so many different functions—holding, touching, grasping, waving—and so much more! So, if you look down and notice you have a swollen hand, it can be scary. To make it less scary, we broke down some of the causes and symptoms to help you understand what to do for swollen hands.
Let’s breakdown the causes, symptoms and what to do for swollen hands.
Swollen hands are a sign that there is fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the hand. They also may be the result of trauma, infections or other abnormal processes. It all depends on the cause, but swollen hands can occur during or after exercise and last for a short time. Swelling that builds up over time, or chronic hand swelling, may indicate an inflammatory process like arthritis. Swollen hands may also be caused by different orthopedic conditions such as a bone fracture.
Swollen hands may be accompanied with common symptoms including redness and warmth around the affected area or fever and chills. Other symptoms that may go hand in hand with a swollen hand include:
- Tingling or numbness
- Painful or tender areas
- Reduced movement in a joint or range of motion
- Swollen joints
- Swelling of the wrist
Hand swelling may be caused by the following:
- Inflammatory conditions including bursitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ganglion cyst
- Fluid retention during pregnancy
- Broken bone
- Hand injury
- Trauma—bruising and swelling
- Torn ligament or muscle
- Repetitive stress injury
Treatment of swollen hands depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. Swollen hands caused by less serious injuries or from conditions such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome can usually be treated at home. Here’s what to do for swollen hands:
Rest. If you have any swelling in the hands, stop any movement and rest it until the swelling goes down.
Ice. If your hand is swollen, icing the affected area will help to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.
Elevation. Elevate your arm and hand above the heart for at least 30 minutes a few times a day to improve blood flow to the heart and reduce swelling.
Exercise. Return excess fluid to the heart with stretching and strength exercises that move the muscles of the hand and wrist.
It’s important to show your hands some love for all they do for us every single day. If you have swollen hands, schedule an appointment with Desert Hand Therapy to find out the cause and to move forward with a treatment plan created specifically for you.
Safety Tips for Both Heat and Cold Therapy
- You should only use either heat or cold therapy for 20 minutes at a time, otherwise you can risk causing burns or frostbite. You can use it more than once a day, just give your skin a break in between sessions.
- Call your doctor if you find that neither heat nor cold therapy is improving your condition.
- If you have circulation problems, stick with heat therapy for pain relief. This will benefit both conditions.
- If you have an injury in an awkward location, try using either a heating or cooling compress that is gel or another malleable form. This will maximize your comfort.
If these do not work, try our compression sleeves in order to reduce swelling. If you have any questions, contact Orthosleeve today!
Tips to Reduce Swelling in Legs
Along with the sensation of heavy legs, many people struggle with swollen ankles, calves, and feet. Edema, or excess water accumulating in body tissue, though uncomfortable, is generally considered non-threatening. Swollen legs resulting from water retention, however, can signal more serious health conditions related to kidneys or the heart. Anyone suffering from protracted edema should consult with a physician.
What Causes Swollen Legs
All other conditions aside, swollen legs due to water retention are often the result of a lack of regular physical activity. Due to periods of prolonged inactivity and/or other health or hormonal conditions can cause capillaries to leak water into the surrounding tissues. Increased pressure in the capillaries prevents water from returning to the bloodstream. The resulting decrease in water in the bloodstream prompts the kidneys to withhold water to compensate for the imbalance.
When the kidneys withhold more fluid, more fluid seeps through the capillaries, thereby prompting further water-retention in the Kidneys. The cycle continues, and swelling accelerates rapidly in an affected region, such as the legs.
Many potential factors contribute to the development of edema. Hot weather, hormone fluctuations, and a high sodium diet can contribute to increased fluid secreting into surrounding tissues. Edema may also arise as a side effect of certain medications. Although it seems to arise suddenly and without warning, water retention often takes much longer to subside, many times lasting for several days.
When to Consult a Doctor
In most cases, edema is completely harmless. Usually, the condition disappears within 24 hours. If the conditions is persistent or recurring, consult your physician immediately. Persistent edema may signal serious kidney problems, diabetes, or cancer. Consult with a physician immediately if there is sudden swelling of the legs and/or the swelling is accompanied by a hot sensation or direct pain. If there are other symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, or chest pain you may need immediate emergency care.
Even in cases where serious causes of edema have been ruled-out, the condition should not persist without intervention. Swelling often arises with pain, itching, and sometimes skin rashes. In addition, water weight can increase the risk of infections, pressure sores, ulcers, and the development of blood clots in the legs, as clots are a bi-product of increased capillary pressure.
What you can do to reduce swelling in legs and water retention:
- When the legs feel swollen, firm, or tight, it helps to tread cold water and use foot baths that alternate between hot and cold water.
- Elevating the legs relieves some of the pressure and promotes the flow of fluids from the body’s extremities.
- A low-sodium diet prevents excessive water retention and promotes the efficient exchange of bodily fluids.
- Engaging in regular physical activities such as jogging, stretching, yoga, walking, cycling, and resistance training support healthy blood flow and promote excretion of harmful substances from the tissues.
- Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting and/or recline.
- Wearing compression stockings on swollen legs help to apply pressure to the legs and prevent water accumulation in those effected regions.
- Consuming naturally diuretic foods and drinks and medications may be prescribed by a doctor to flush the kidneys and thereby relieve uncomfortable leg swelling.
Two Things That Cause Normal Swelling in Pregnancy
- As pregnancy progresses, the weight of the uterus including a baby, placenta and fluid causes pelvic pressure that prevents effective return of blood from the lower extremities.
- Also, the hormones of pregnancy cause your veins to be more relaxed and they are unable to move blood against gravity back to the heart and kidneys as well as usual. Sitting with the legs dependent for long periods of time like many women do at their jobs is a reason pregnant women have swollen ankles at the end of the day. If after resting all night in a horizontal position, your swelling is resolved, you can be very reassured that it is completely normal. Typically, women have more swelling in the ankles at night and in their hands in the morning.
Some women experience swelling in pregnancy that is unrelieved by rest and position change. Again, when it is of gradual onset and remains in the legs or arms it is usually normal.
When you google “swelling in pregnancy” the word pre-eclampsia is commonly pops up. The definition of pre-eclampsia is an elevation of blood pressure in pregnancy that is associated with protein in the urine, a headache unrelieved with Tylenol, hydration and rest, visual disturbances, epigastric pain or other lab abnormalities. Swelling in pregnancy can potentially be a side effect of this condition but it is NOT the way pre-eclampsia is diagnosed.
What Can You do to Relieve Swelling in Pregnancy?
- Hydration is key. It seems counterintuitive but more water intakes reduces swelling edema. Water likes water and the more water circulating in your vessels the more the fluid in the tissue will return to your veins.
- Foods that are natural diuretics (foods that increase excretion of fluids through the kidneys) include asparagus, celery, artichokes, carrots, watermelon, cucumber, tomato, parsley, eggplant, cranberry juice, cabbage, apple cider vinegar, beets, ginger, brussel sprouts, and lemon.
- A high protein diet will help make little proteins circulate in your blood vessels and help draw fluid back into the veins so it can be removed by the kidneys..
- Garlic and parsley oil pills (they come together in one gelcapsule) can also help reduce edema. Take 3 pills by mouth at bedtime.
- Reducing your sugars can keep you from retaining water. Remember sugar is in all carbohydrate foods (rice, pasta, bread, grains, dessert) as well as fruits. And tropical fruits have a higher sugar content than other fruits. Beware of fruit juice as well, it is soda in sheep’s clothing.
- Supportive stockings can also help. They are often called TED hose. Put them on in the morning before you leave your bed to keep pressure on your legs to help promote return of blood through the veins.
- Immersion in water can decreases edema. Try 20 minutes daily in a deep bathtub or swimming pool
- Massage therapy can also return fluid to the general circulation to help excretion through the kidneys. Choose a good massage oil and you can massage your legs or have your partner do so at home.
The swelling caused by pregnancy will resolve after the birth but it can actually worsens initially postpartum. It can take up to 2 weeks to completely resolve.