Home > Blog > Hand Therapy & Customized Splinting > Conditions > Finger, Hand, Wrist, Forearm & Elbow Conditions > Hand Edema Hand Therapy

Hand Edema Hand Therapy

“Working with a knowledgeable hand therapist can make the difference between success and failure in complex hand surgical cases. The therapist extends the continuum of our care, as well as functioning as coach and trainer for our patients.”

Marybeth Ezaki, MD, Past President, American Society for Surgery of the Hand

In Phoenix Rehab, our senior hand therapists are experienced licensed and dedicated therapists (physiotherapists and/or occupational therapists) who specialized ONLY in the rehabilitation, treatment and management of painful fingers, hands, wrists, forearm & elbow conditions, because of interest, passion and expertise.

Hand edema is most obvious on the back of the hand, as shown here

Edema is swelling caused by too much and excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues.

Hand edema is a sign of inflammation in the tissues or joints of the hand. And inflammation will lead to increased fluid that can collect between the skin and deeper tissue causing an increase in size of the hand as well as tightness in the structures due to the increased pressure.

Swelling may come on suddenly, such as following an injury (with a broken bone) due to accidents or falls, or it may come on gradually over months to years (with arthritis).

What are the symptoms of edema?

Symptoms of edema may include an increase in size or puffiness of the tissue.

Skin that keeps a dimple after being pressed for several seconds and looks stretched or shiny may be a sign of edema (specificly, this is called "pitting edema").

Patients with edema and swelling in their hands and fingers may experience

  • pain
  • stiffness of the joints or
  • a feeling of fullness in the hand

Sometimes there may be dull ache in the swollen area and the skin may change color and seem shinier due to the stretch in the skin.

What are the causes of hand edema?

Hand edema may be caused from

  • trauma and injury from sports injuries, falls, motor vehicle accidents
  • infection
  • arthritis
  • repetitive stress injury

Hand swelling can also be caused by a cast that is too tight.

Depending on the cause, edema can last for a short time, such as when it occurs during or after exercise. On the other hand, chronic hand edema, or swelling that builds up over time, often indicates an inflammatory process.

What can a hand therapist do for me?

Our senior hand therapists can recommend

  • compression to reduce edema
  • exercises to decrease edema and stiffness
  • specialized retrograde massage to improve the return of the "stuck" fluids

Hand therapists can educate on the best position of the arm to reduce edema. Hand therapy is very important in order to achieve the best outcome after having a swollen hand.

Example of our senior hand therapist performing specialized massage of the hand to reduce edema

Patients may also receive the following hand therapy treatment modalities: