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Swollen Hands and Fat Fingers

Walkers Wonder About Bloated Hands


Updated May 16, 2014

Swollen Hand

Swollen Hand vs. Not Swollen Hand

© macniak / Depositphotos.com

We've all experienced it - your hands swelling when you go on a walk. Sometimes it is worse than other times - puffy, bloated hands. Why? And how to prevent it?

Our correspondent Melanie Jonker questioned several walking-related mailgroups about this problem to get theories on causes and how walkers dealt with the problem. The good news is that no walker or their health care provider found this problem to be serious and it always went away soon after completing the walk. If your hand swelling doesn't subside soon after the walk, you should consider consulting your health provider.

Theories on Causes

  • Many walkers say long walks in warm weather lead to hand swelling.
  • Some walkers reported the problem more often in cool weather.
  • Some walkers thought that higher altitude contributed to more swelling.
Electrolyte imbalance: Electrolytes are the salts in your bloodstream, which must be kept in balance to prevent swelling in the tissues (edema). When you sweat, you lose salt. When you eat too much salt, you body has to work to balance it with more fluid. Either way, you may have swelling. Appropriate use of a sports drink that replaces electrolytes, as well as taking in the right volume of fluid (not too much, not too little) are key to maintaining electrolyte balance.
Drinking Guidelines for Distance Walkers

Arm Motion (or lack of it): There is some debate on whether certain types of arm motion force more fluid into the hands by "centrifugal force." Walking with your hands constantly below your heart makes it more difficult for the circulatory system to return your blood flow back from your hands.

Racewalking coach Bonnie Stein of Acewalker.com describes "blood pooling." Our leg muscles are working hard during a walk and help return blood from the lower body. Despite this, your feet still swell as much as a full shoe size during a long walk. The arm muscles are smaller and in less use when walking, so they don't help as much in returning blood from the hands. This may lead to the swelling.

Next > Preventing and Treating Swollen Hands

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