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Why Do My Fingers Swell When I Run?

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Why Do My Fingers Swell When I Run?
Swollen fingers could be the sign of a health problem. Photo Credit Astrid Gast/iStock/Getty Images

Usually, exercise makes swelling better, not worse. However, if your hands blow up to the size of balloons when you run, it's not necessarily a sign that something is wrong. Running increases blood flow but the way you pump your arms when you run might actually trap fluid in your hands.

There is also a chance that swelling in your hands is a sign of a more serious problem. So if it persists for long after you finish or is accompanied by other symptoms, see a doctor.


Edema is the proper name for swelling or fluid retention in a part of the body. Limbs can swell up as can organs. Compared to edema of the lungs, edema of the hands is not very serious. It can be uncomfortable and alarming, especially if your hands take on a different color when they're swollen. If anything, they'll turn a shade of dark blue or purple.

It's not entirely clear why running can cause edema, but there are some speculations. First of all, when you run blood is redirected from your organs, such as your intestines, and dispersed throughout your limbs. This rush of blood to the limbs helps power your run because it delivers precious oxygen to the muscles that need it most.

Read More: The Best Foods for Edema

Normally, exercise would help clear swelling from your limbs because it increases blood flow. When blood flow is increased it pushes swelling out. However, running incorporates repetitive arm movement. When you pump your arms constantly you're swinging your hands back and forth.

Centripetal Force

As you swing your arms centripetal force starts to come into play. Centripetal force is a physics term that describes a force the pulls outwards as you swing something. For example, if you swing a bucket of water, the water stays in the bucket. That's because centripetal force pulls it down. The same thing can be said for the blood coursing through your arms. It's being pulled down by centripetal force.

During your run, you can try squeezing your hands to promote blood flow and decrease swelling. When you stop running and pumping your arms your hands should slowly return back to normal. If it doesn't, you might have a different problem.

Females are almost twice as likely to have swollen fingers.
Females are almost twice as likely to have swollen fingers. Photo Credit macniak/iStock/Getty Images

Blocked Veins

Certain conditions can make it harder for blood to get back out of your hands, like carpal tunnel syndrome. With carpal tunnel, there is swelling in your wrists that can press on veins, making it harder for blood to move out. Deep vein thrombosis is an even more serious condition where veins are blocked from the inside, making it harder for blood to get out of a joint.

Read More: Vitamins Used to Treat Edema

Organ Problems

Heart disease, kidney failure, liver problems and thyroid problems can all cause edema, which is why it's important to see a doctor if the swelling in your hands doesn't go away. Your doctor might ask you to lose weight, take a diuretic pill which reduces the amount of water in your body or decrease your sodium intake. However, a diuretic pill makes you dehydrated, so be sure that your doctor knows you like to run.

Greater Risk in Females

Women are about two times more likely to experience hand swelling than men, according to a 2011 study in the International Scholarly Research Network of Rheumatology. That's probably because two causes of edema are contraceptive pills and pregnancy. Women are also more likely to experience edema while menstruating because of the natural change in hormone levels.

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