Reduce swelling

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What causes swelling in the fingers and hand?

After an injury or operation you might notice swelling. The swelling or ‘oedema’ is caused by excess fluid in the tissues.

The common causes are bleeding and inflammation. Inflammation is the bodies response to injury and leads to excess tissue fluid leaking into the tissues. 

How can I reduce the swelling in my fingers or hand?

Reducing the swelling usually helps reduce pain and makes it easier to do hand exercises. Below are some top tips.

If you have pain, take some simple pain relief. This will allow you to get on with the following . . . 

1. Elevate your hand above the level of your heart. Gravity will help the swelling go down. Prop you hand up on some pillows or hold it across your chest when moving around.

2. Start hand exercises to naturally pump the fluid out of the tissues. Your hand therapist will guide the exercises you can do. This website has information on hand exercises for different injuries.

3. Get the blood flow moving using contrast baths. You will need two bowels of water. One filled with icy water and the other with warm water.

Soak the hand in the cold water for one minute whilst making a fist and releasing then place your hand in the warm water for one minute; repeat 5-8 times.

It is not suitable to contrast bath if you have open wounds or circulatory problems.

4. Massage the fluid out of your hand and wrist. Hold your hand higher than your elbow, use sweeping downward strokes working from your fingertips towards your forearm. Use cream to aid the massage.

What is self adherent bandage?

Self-adherent bandage can be used to reduce swelling.

Wrapping the bandage around a digit, hand or wrist can gently squeeze the fluid back into the normal circulation.

3M™ Coban™ Self-Adherent Bandage is well known but there are many cheaper versions available online. Search “self adherent finger bandage”. 

Leave your fingertip free so that you can check the colour. Start at the end of your finger or thumb and wind the bandage down the digit in a spiral to the base. 

The self-adherent bandage should not be stretched. It will stick to itself.

Remove the bandage if your fingertip turns pale, dark, goes numb / pins and needles or you develop an allergic reaction.

Don’t put the bandage straight onto an open wound.

Author: Matthew D. Gardiner
Reviewed by: Nikki Burr  
Hand therapists: Nikki Burr

Last review: 12th August 2020
Next review: 1st August 2021

As a service to our readers, My Injured Hand provides information on conditions. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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