Are you the one whose fingers swell during excessive activities? If they do, you're not alone. This can be the most annoying thing while hiking! Some hikers complain that their fingers swell after walking on steep or rocky trails. I remember the first time my fingers swelled while hiking. It was around mile 4 and I could already feel my fingers getting chubbier than a beach ball.
To be honest, there is no known cure yet for this situation. Swollen fingers are our body's response to external physical stressors, but sometimes, having swollen digits are a pain in the head. For this reason, it hinders us from enjoying our time within the outdoors. Why it occurs and how we could fix it is what we are about to explore right now.
Tight-fitting Backpacks And Clothes
During your hike, backpack straps that are too tight weigh down your muscle and limit blood from making it past your shoulder to the rest of your body. The improper layering of clothes, tight jackets or sweaters, tight wristwatches, and jewelry are sometimes ignored resulting in constricted blood vessels. When blood is not able to flow freely to your body, blood will eventually pool in the hands and at your feet making them swell. Imagine tightening a part of a water hose. The side that does not receive proper water flow will eventually tighten and swell. The same goes for our blood vessels.
Do not worry. Everything here is normal. It is our body's natural response and all you need to do is find a cozy spot to rest and relax for a while. Remove your backpack and lay it on the ground. If you have tight jackets or sweaters that have straps on them, loose them up. Remove any tight jewelry such as rings. Do stretching a bit and gently massage your muscles to apply a soft soothing pressure. Elevate your arms above your head every so often, or bend your arms up by gripping the thumb or shoulder straps on your backpack. It is also important to take note that before you hit the trail, learning how to correctly pack your backpack and the correct way to carry it depending on what trail and situation you are going may provide a great difference and can even prevent you from experiencing swollen fingers. Trekking poles are also recommended for they promote arms and hand movement resulting in better blood circulation. If you don’t use poles, activate your hand muscles to promote circulation by squeezing them into a fist and releasing the grip every few minutes. You can also grab your water bottle or another object and swing it around as you walk.
Don't forget to enjoy the scenery while you wait for your body to normalize.
Too Much Water Intake! Hyponatremia
Hold your horses. Yes. Too much water intake during your hike or in general may have negative effects on our bodies. It is a less common cause of swelling in the hands and feet, but it is better to be ready than sorry. This can occur if you drink too much fluid or water that your body can get rid of. Although hyponatremia is more commonly associated with ultra-distance running than with backpacking or hiking, knowing what is ahead and how we can prevent this is a must. The logic is, when too much water is present, a low level of sodium is experienced. This results in cell expansion and thus swelling may occur. You may experience puffiness, but in severe cases, nausea, headache, fatigue, and confusion are eminent. Forget about your trail, seek immediate medical attention when these are experienced for they pose a serious threat.
Depending on the severity of the situation, cutting your fluid intake is a fix for mild cases. If you ever experience swelling or puffiness in your fingers or hands when hiking, chances are all you need to do is to improve blood circulation to your hands. Eating salty chips is also recommended for this scenario. Who would have known that chips can sometimes become a handy lifesaver? Don't forget to bring some during your hike. Another reminder to prevent this from happening during your trail is to drink only when you are thirsty. Water is essential and good to our body, but anything that is too much becomes harmful. Drink your fluids moderately.
The Bottom Line
If you do not have any underlying disease or complications, swelling is a normal response of our body to external stressors. Learning how to properly manage when it occurs is a must-have advantage during your hike. Just remember that our bodies may sometimes weaken and fail. Stop, relax and take a rest for a while. Don't forget to enjoy the scenery and appreciate how extraordinary the outdoors can be.