Many of us have experienced the uncomfortable sensation of a swollen palms, and it can occur suddenly without warning. This nuisance may only last for a few minutes on many occasions, but on others it can persist for much longer. But is there a reason to panic? In most cases, the answer is NO. What’s happening in our palms and fingers reflects what is happening both inside and outside our bodies. These factors are rarely cause for concern. However, in those few cases where there is a problem, it’s good to be able to identify it, and understand whether it’s treatable at home, or if it’s time to see a doctor.
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel, and causes pain, numbness and tingling in the part of the hand that receives sensation from the median nerve. (source) This is a very common syndrome in both men and women of various ages and occurs mostly in people who engage in monotonous actions (such as office work). If treated early on, the problem is easily remedied, but the longer it takes to diagnose and treat, the longer the healing process takes.
Home treatments require several actions:
- Icing – If you suspect that the source of the inflammation is from a repetitive action, ice your wrists twice a day for 15-20 minutes each time. Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Avoid placing the ice directly on your skin.
- Take breaks – If you keep bending your wrists and fingers repeatedly when doing computer work, sewing, or knitting, make sure you take a 5-10 minute break every hour and avoid straining your wrists during those breaks.
- Carpal tunnel stretches – This simple exercise can help reduce the pain: touch your thumb to your pinky, and then bend the 3 remaining fingers onto the “bridge” they formed. Use your other hand to push down those fingers, but don’t do it too hard. While holding the fingers down, try straightening them. You will feel the carpal tunnel getting stretched. Maintain this pose for 5 seconds and release. Perform this exercise five times a day.
- Massage – Apply hand or body lotion to your palms and use the opposite hand to gently apply pressure, while rubbing the lotion in. The massage will increase blood flow to the area and will reduce the pain. The massage should take about 5-10 minutes and be repeated twice a day.
In more severe cases, where the pain is persistent, contact your family doctor. They might recommend a steroid shot or another medical treatment.
2. Too Much Sodium
Excess consumption of fried and salted foods may lead to swelling in the palms. The swelling appears along the fingers, from base to tip. The reason for this is that the body needs to maintain the sodium-water balance, so it compensates by retaining fluids in the palms and feet. The swelling usually goes away within a day, unless there is a lot of salt in your system. If this is a regular occurrence, try removing salt from your diet for a week and see if the issue persists.
3. Swollen Palms While Walking
If you feel like your palms swell after you have been walking, then you’re not alone. This is a common phenomenon that happens as a result of changing weather conditions, body temperature changes, and an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are minerals that the body needs, and their levels relative to water must remain balanced to prevent tissue swelling. When we sweat – we lose electrolytes, which can cause our body to swell as a result.
- Remove anything that may put pressure on your fingers or arms before exercising. Avoid wearing rings, watches, and tight-sleeved shirts.
- Carry with you an item you can grab in your palms from time to time during the exercise, to encourage blood to flow to your palms. The point of this action is to improve circulation, so don’t grab the item too hard. You can use a small water bottle, a rubber ball, a cane, or any other cylindrical object that isn’t too heavy.
- Keep your arms loose by straightening your arms before you start your walk, and spinning them. Repeat a few times during the walk. Straighten your arms and, one hand at a time, do a full circle backwards, with your palm facing out. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times for each hand. During your walk, stretch your hands up above your head for a few seconds from time to time.
- Keep your palms open when you walk and try to leave them as loose as possible. Bunch them into a fist from time to time for a few seconds, then open them up again, stretching the fingers as much as you can, and pretend you’re playing a piano for a few seconds.
- Hold your hands close to your torso and move them parallel to the body, without letting them meet. If your palms touch at chest height you’re moving your hands incorrectly.
- Make sure you drink a lot of water before you go on your walk. This will prevent an imbalance in your salts/liquid ratio that may lead to more swelling. To make sure you drink enough, weigh yourself after drinking, then once more after the exercise. If your weight decreases – you did not drink enough.