We use our fingers almost constantly and even a slight swelling or pain can cause a lot of discomfort, or worse, make it hard to use the swollen finger at all.
Fingers swell for a lot of reasons and many of them are harmless. Typically, it is the result of inflammation or fluid buildup.
This can be due to an insect bite, an injury like a sprained or jammed finger, a rash, fluid retention, an infection, exposure to extreme temperature, high salt intake or hormonal changes in the body.
It can also be a result of an underlying health problem, such as bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cellulitis, ganglion cyst, fungal infection around the nail, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and septic arthritis, to name a few.
Along with swelling, there may be other symptoms, such as redness, bruising, fatigue, pain, lumps along the finger, numbness or tingling sensations from nerve compression, reduced range of motion, stiffness and swollen joints.
Mild cases of finger swelling heal with time. To reduce swelling and pain faster, you can try some home remedies.
However, if the swelling is accompanied by severe pain, a weak grip or a fever, consult your doctor immediately as it can be due to severe trauma or a serious underlying problem.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat swollen fingers.
1. Contrast Hydrotherapy
Both cold and warm water treatments, popularly known as hydrotherapy, can help with finger swelling. Warm water helps improve circulation and cold water plays a key role in reducing swelling and inflammation.
- Fill 2 small bowls– one with cold water and the other with warm water.
- First, soak the affected finger in warm water for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Then, put the finger in the cold water for 1 minute.
- Continue alternating steps 2 and 3 for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Repeat the treatment 3 or 4 times daily until you get relief.
2. Elevate the Affected Fingers
Poor circulation is one of the key reasons behind swelling in any part of the body, including the fingers.
To reduce swelling due to poor circulation, elevate your hands and fingers above your chest level. This will help improve blood circulation and provide relief from discomforts like swelling, inflammation and pain.
Keep the swollen fingers elevated above your chest level. You can sit on a sofa, put a few pillows on its arm rest and rest your hand on it.
To keep the fingers elevated while sleeping, put a few pillows under your hands.
Keep your hands and fingers elevated for 30 minutes a few times a day.
3. Warm Oil Massage
A gentle warm oil massage can also be very helpful in reducing swelling.
Massage relaxes sore muscles, stimulates the muscles and improves blood circulation to the affected area. As a bonus, massage encourages drainage of excess fluid, which is a leading cause of swelling.
- Warm some mustard oil or olive oil in the microwave.
- Dab some of the warm oil on the affected finger.
- Using the thumb and forefinger of one hand, gently massage the swollen finger on the opposite hand, starting at the tip of the finger and moving toward your heart.
- Massage for 5 minutes at a time.
- Do this several times a day.
Note: If massaging causes more pain, stop doing it and consult a doctor.
4. Exercise the Fingers
If your fingers are swollen due to poor circulation, strain or fluid retention, try exercising the fingers to reduce swelling.
Exercise causes more blood flow to the area, which stimulates the pressure to reduce fluid retention. Exercise will also reduce strain in the muscles around the affected area.
Flexing your fingers is one of the best exercises to try.
- Remove any rings before exercising your fingers.
- Close your fingers into a fist and hold it for 1 minute.
- Slowly open the fist and stretch out your fingers.
- Repeat the cycle several times.
- Do this exercise many times a day.
You can also try hand squeezes with a tennis ball or a rubber stress ball.
To help stop swelling, compress the swollen fingers as soon as possible.
Compressing the wrist and hand helps prevent fluid from accumulating in the fingers. This in turn stops swelling as well as pain in your fingers.
- To apply compression, you can use ace wrap or elastic bandage from the market.
- Wrap the bandage using even pressure around your wrist and try to cover your palm, too.
- Keep the bandage on during the day until the swelling reduces.
- Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
Note: Do not wrap the bandage too tightly or it can cut off the circulation to your fingers.
You can also try special fingerless compression gloves that are readily available in the market.
Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, which offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps with conditions like arthritis, muscle sprains and other injuries that cause swelling in fingers.
A 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease demonstrated the positive result of turmeric in pain management and mobility.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder with a little olive oil to make a paste.
- Apply it over the affected finger.
- Allow it to dry for some time, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat twice daily to get rid of pain and swelling.
You can opt to take curcumin supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
7. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is made from magnesium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral that helps reduce swelling and pain.
Inflammation causes a depletion of magnesium, so when the affected part of the body is soaked in Epsom salt, the body absorbs the magnesium and combats the inflammation.
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in a big bowl of hot water.
- Stir thoroughly.
- Dip the affected fingers in it for 10 to 15 minutes. Or, you can soak a small towel in it
- Repeat once or twice daily for a few days.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar also provides relief from the discomforts of swollen fingers. Its high potassium content helps reduce fluid retention, a common cause of swelling.
In fact, one of the serious symptoms of potassium deficiency is edema.
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps maintain the right pH balance in the body and also helps prevent high uric acid levels in the body.
- Soak a small towel in a mixture of equal amounts of warm water and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Wring out the excess water and wrap the affected finger with this towel for 10 minutes. Repeat this process a few times a day.
- Also, add 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. Add some raw honey and drink it twice daily.
9. Black Tea Bags
Black tea bags are loaded with antioxidants and plenty of tannins that help reduce swelling and buildup of fluids around the affected area. Tea bags also help shrink the blood vessels and tighten the skin.
- Brew a cup of strong tea using a black tea bag.
- Remove the tea bag from the water and chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Put the cold tea bag over the swollen finger for 10 minutes.
- Repeat several times a day for quick results.
10. Reduce Salt Intake
High salt or sodium intake is another contributing factor behind swelling in different parts of the body, including the fingers. High amounts of sodium make your body retain excess fluid, which in turn causes swelling due to edema.
By limiting your salt intake, you reduce the chances of retaining extra fluids. Try to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) daily.
- Instead of eating out, cook at home to better control the amount of salt you are consuming.
- To add flavor to bland food, use herbs and other seasonings.
- Bear in mind that you get added salt from foods like bread, cottage cheese, salad dressings and even canned foods.
- Limit your intake of salty foods, such as prepackaged snacks and fast food.
- Maintain a moderate temperature in your home or office to encourage better circulation.
- Avoid exposing your swollen finger to very cold temperature, as it may lead to more swelling.
- Rest the injured finger as much as possible to accelerate the healing process.
- Avoid using the injured finger for carrying heavy objects.
- If needed, wear a splint to immobilize your finger.
- Do not play sports in which you may have to use your swollen finger extensively.
- Make sure to consume a sufficient amount of water each day to prevent dehydration, which can cause water retention.
- Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cloves and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.