Swollen Hands in the Morning: Causes and Treatments

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Swollen Hands in the MorningWhy are my hands swollen when I wake up in the morning? Arthritis is a common underlying cause of swollen hands and fingers in the morning. Having swollen hands or fingers in the morning can start your day off on the wrong foot; affecting your daily morning routine in any number of ways.

Swollen hands and fingers in the morning can make taking a shower and brushing your teeth difficult, getting dressed a task, making breakfast a chore, and even driving to work a challenge.

Waking up with the discomfort of swollen hands and fingers in the morning is pretty common, but the reasons as to what causes swollen hands can vary.

What Causes Swollen Hands in the Morning?

Because the causes of swollen hands and fingers in the morning can vary, it’s important to understand the exact cause of the swelling before considering what kind of treatment to seek. Causes can include:


1. Dehydration: The most common cause for swollen hands when you wake up in the morning is fluid retention. If you don’t drink enough water each day, your body can go into dehydration mode when you sleep. What that means is the body holds onto the fluids; as a result, your hands and fingers, and in some cases, your feet swell because of water retention.

2. Sleep posture: How you sleep can lead to swollen hands and fingers in the morning. If you toss and turn when you sleep it’s possible that you could bend your wrist and cause swelling.

3. Arthritis: Swelling related to arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints. The swelling and stiffness due to arthritis can last for a few hours after you wake up; it tends to affect the smaller joints, like those in your hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis that causes the finger joints to swell. Psoriatic arthritis causes swelling in the fingers and joints while osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage between your finger joints degenerates. Cervical or neck spondylosis is a form of arthritis that affects the neck, but, it can creep into the fingers.

4. High sodium diet: A poor diet high in sodium can lead to swollen hands and fingers in the morning. When you eat foods with high levels of sodium (deep fried, processed foods, sauces, dressings) or don’t eat enough healthy foods, your body retains water.

5. Kidney issues: Your kidney and liver can cause your hands and joints to swell in the mornings. Both of these organs are responsible for filtering fluids in your body. If either or both organs are not functioning properly, water can build up in the body and accumulate in your hands and feet.

6. Allergies: If you have allergies, it’s quite possible that you can come into contact with something that causes a reaction in your body, resulting in swollen hands and fingers in the morning.

For example, angioedema or angioneurotic edema is a skin condition characterized by swelling beneath the surface of the skin and is often caused by an allergic reaction. While it typically affects the underlying skin layers of the eyes, ears, and lips, it can also affect the fingers.

7. Pregnancy: If you are pregnant you might wake up in the morning with swollen hands, fingers and feet. There are a number of reasons why this happens. During pregnancy, your body produces around 50% more blood and other body fluids to help your baby grow. And around 25% of your pregnancy weight comes from fluid retention. And some of that extra fluid is going to go to your hands and feet.

8. Activity or inactivity: If you constantly use your hands in strenuous activities at work, or exercise, or other repetitive motions, your hands and fingers could swell due to bad circulation. At the same time, because you are inactive while you sleep, it’s possible your hands could feel swollen in the morning from blood being pushed to the hands.

9. Infections: Infections like paronychia, a skin condition of the fingernails, cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, and osteomyelitis, a bone disease, can also cause swelling in the hands and fingers as your immune system tries to fight the infections.

Symptoms of Swollen Hands in the Morning

There are at least 40 conditions associated with swollen hands in the morning, stiffness, numbness or tingling. The most obvious symptom of swollen hands and fingers in the morning is of course…having swollen hands and fingers. But there are other symptoms you need to be aware of:

  • Pain: Pain from swollen hands and fingers in the morning can be constant or it can come and go. Your hands and fingers can experience pain if you’re at rest. You might also feel pain in one part of your hands and fingers or all over.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness is a classic symptom of swollen hands and fingers when you wake up.
  • Difficulty moving a joint: Your hands and fingers shouldn’t be in pain when you wake up. And it shouldn’t hurt to climb out of bed.

Treatment for Swollen Hands in the Morning

Regardless of what causes your swollen hands and fingers in the morning when you wake up, there are a number of things you can do to wave goodbye to the pain.

  • Raise your hands above your head for 3.5 minutes
  • Give yourself a hand massage or better yet, have someone else do it for you
  • Perform hand exercises to get your muscles moving
  • Ice your hands, it reduces swelling
  • Drink lots of water during the day
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Avoid salty and processed foods
  • Exercise daily
  • Ask your health practitioner about anti-inflammatories

Understand the Causes of Your Swollen Hands

Waking up with swollen hands and fingers in the morning can be frustrating. The more you understand the causes of your swollen hands the better you’ll be able to take steps to ease the symptoms.

Keep a journal of your symptoms; make a note of what parts of your hand are swollen, when, and for how long. The more your health practitioner knows, the more they will understand the type and extent of your issue.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Say Goodbye to Swollen Hands in the Morning,” Desert Hand Therapy web site; http://www.deserthandtherapy.com/wave-goodbye-to-swollen-hands-in-the-morning/, last accessed January 6, 2015.
“The Causes and Solutions to Swollen Fingers in the Morning,” hubpages.com; http://hubpages.com/health/The-Causes-and-Solutions-to-Swollen-Fingers-in-the-Morning, last accessed January 6, 2015.
“Swollen Hands and Feet,” baby center web site; http://www.babycenter.ca/a230/swollen-hands-and-feet-edema, last accessed January 6, 2015.
“Diagnosis and Treatment for Swelling in the Hand,” nih.gov web site; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2600075/, last accessed January 6, 2015.
“7 Reasons Why Your Fingers Are Swollen,” Prevention web site; http://www.prevention.com/health/why-your-fingers-swell, last accessed January 6, 2015.
“Fluid retention is often just an annoyance, but it can point to serious illness,” The Washington Post web site; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/fluid-retention-is-often-just-an-annoyance-but-it-can-point-to-serious-illness/2012/12/10/35deebaa-067f-11e2-a10c-fa5a255a9258_story.html, last accessed January 6, 2015.

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Dr. Alwyn Wong, DC

About the Author, Browse Alwyn's Articles

Dr. Alwyn Wong has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over fifteen years and brings with him a wealth of experience. He uses an integrated treatment approach, combining active release techniques (ART®), acupuncture, chiropractic, nutritional consulting, and program design to treat his patients, many of whom have included professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and PGA, as well as Olympic, and IFBB athletes. Although his focus has shifted to more clinical work, he remains as... Read Full Bio »