Swelling, or oedema, of the body, especially of the limbs, feet or hands, can be due to a number of causes. The most obvious cause is an injury. Other reasons for swelling could be an underlying medical condition that causes the retention of water in the body’s tissues and impairs circulation. These might include arthritis, kidney disorders, heart disease, pregnancy, hormonal changes, improper diet and inactivity. If your hands frequently swell, you should arrange to see your medical professional to rule out any serious problems. In the meantime, you can relieve the swelling and the accompanying discomfort by using these suggestions. These techniques can greatly help mild to moderate swelling of the hands.
Place ice water in a bowl. Submerge your hands up to the wrists in 10-minute intervals, or as long as you can stand the cold. Remove your hands from the water for up to 5 minutes, and then repeat. Continue this process for no more than 1 hour. The cold temperature of the ice water will literally force blood and fluid from your hands by constricting blood vessels and sending the fluid back into circulation to be eliminated. When you take your hands from the water, warm oxygenated blood will return, further displacing stagnant fluids. What you are doing is artificially stimulating your circulation to return to normal. Dry your hands with a towel when you are finished.
Sit on a chair facing a wall. Raise your arms above your head, lean forward and place your palms onto the wall in front of you. Remain in this position for as long as is comfortable. It may also help to gently wiggle your fingers back and forth to further help gravity improve your circulation. You could also clench and release your fists several times. Elevation, with or without movement, is often used as therapy to relieve swelling.
Look to your diet. Adding large amounts of excess salt to your food is an obvious potential problem. Less obvious are hidden sources of sodium. Processed and packaged snack foods, deli meats, even ketchup and flavoured dips can be culprits. Reduce these foods, as well as caffeine and alcohol. Use various herbal seasoning blends for flavour, and increase the amount of water, fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily intake. Many people find that their hands stop swelling after making these changes, without medical intervention.
Take an over-the-counter, non-prescription medicine, such as ibuprofen, to relieve swelling and pain until you are able to see a doctor.
Try using massage. Using firm but gentle pressure, take one hand and massage the other one. Begin at the tip of each finger and massage downward toward the palm. After massaging the fingers, massage the palm the same way. Finish by massaging the wrist, remembering to move in the direction of your heart--up rather than down to the fingertips. Repeat with the opposite hand.
Try these suggestions one at a time to determine which of them, or which combination of them, offers you the most relief.
If any of these suggestions worsen your discomfort and swelling, you may have a more serious medical problem or internal damage, such as a tear or a fracture. Stop immediately and seek emergency attention at once. If your hands are painful to the touch, or cannot be used, do not try to solve the problem on your own. You should get a professional diagnosis.