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By Diane Spicer
Ever notice that you have swollen fingers after hiking that make your hands feel like crab claws?
Or have you ever glanced down in the middle of a long day on the trail and say yikes, are those sausages holding my trekking poles?
Yeah, me too.
There are lots of things you can try to reduce the amount of swelling, or prevent it altogether.
Because living with swollen fingers after a hike?
Not much fun.
Let's start with some tips for managing the swelling after you get off the trail.
None of this is medical advice, just tips from a hiker whose swollen fingers after hiking got her thinking about ways to handle the problem.
As female hikers, we are more prone to wearing jewelry on our hands and wrists than male hikers.
So start by removing all of your rings and bracelets.
This might be harder than it sounds with swollen fingers.
Make a mental note to leave those items at home on your next hike.
Or wear your ring(s) on a sturdy chain around your neck.
Sit down where you can prop your elbows above your heart. This returns the fluid more easily to the bloodstream because it works with, not against, gravity.
While you're propped up, consider whether or not you drank enough water during the hike.
And were you dehydrated even at the beginning of the hike?
Also ask yourself if your trail food was unusually salty.
If you know that you're going to have sausage fingers, prepare a self care kit and stash it at the trailhead.
Suggestion: Grab a cooler, fill it with ice, and include:
Try some different combinations of unsalted fast energy, known as trail mixes.
And consider investing in a hiking hydration backpack.
Think about your upper body clothing in terms of how tight and constrictive it might be.
Is your watch band or fitness tracker digging into your flesh?
It's also possible that your backpack straps are cinched down too tightly, so check that out before you put it on again.
You can also try cold compresses, or plunging your hands into any available cold stream, lake or snow patch.
A hiker who uses
poles may have less of a problem with finger swelling, probably
because her muscle contractions are "milking" the fluid back to her heart as she grasps the poles.
Using poles also forces her to swing her arms, helping the fluid along its path back to the heart.
So try using poles, and note whether or not it makes a difference in your swollen fingers after hiking.
Not really sure if it's working for you?
Use your trail journal to gather data on the length of the hike, the changes in swelling, and which trail tips you tried before you decide to just live with swollen fingers.
Sometimes it takes a few hikes before you see a pattern in improvement.
The fluid accumulation in your swollen fingers took awhile to get there.
So give it a few hours to get redistributed in your body after you stop hiking.
This goes for swollen feet and ankles after a hike, too.
But if your fingers don't return to normal size within a few hours, something else is going on.
When your fingers swell
after a hike, or you notice swollen ankles after your
hiking boots come off, you're dealing with an abundance of fluid in tissue spaces.
This watery lymph fluid was pushed into your fingers due to gravity, because your fingers were dangling for long periods of time as you hiked.
Your blood vessels increase in diameter as your muscle contractions go on and on during a hike, which also pushes fluid into your fingers.
This can also happen in your face (bags under your eyes, for example).
So don't be alarmed if swollen fingers after a hike isn't your only problem to deal with after you take off your boots.
If you're headed into those types of hiking terrains, use these tips to get your entire body ready for the challenge:
This fluid accumulation should be painless.
If it's painful, it could be inflammation due to an injury, infection or some other issue that needs medical attention.
Now you know why your hands and fingers swell on a hike.
You also know what to do to manage the swelling, and even prevent it from bothering you again.
No more sausage fingers (or crab claws) for you!
Need more healthy hiking tips? Coming right up here.
Swollen Fingers After Hiking