Stiff Hands and Fingers in the Morning: Why and What to Do

It can be really unpleasant to wake up with stiff hands and fingers. Getting ready for school or work may be a challenge for you. Morning stiffness can be caused by many different things like sleeping wrong, arthritis, viral conditions, or nerve issues. If you have joint pain and stiffness in your fingers always check with your doctor if the problem doesn’t go away. This article will outline some of the more common causes.

Reasons You Have Stiff Hands and Fingers in the Morning

When you have morning stiffness, it could be caused by a number of different things like:

1.    Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and possibly disabling condition. It is an autoimmune disorder caused by the body attacking the joint tissue. There is no cure, but it is treatable to help bring relief from the pain of flares. One of the most prominent symptoms of RA is joint pain in the morning that lasts for at least one hour. Doctors can test blood levels of certain antibodies and inflammatory markers to make the diagnosis. Treatments include medications and topical therapies to relieve inflammation.

2.    Previous Injury

A previous injury near a joint in the hands and fingers can lead to a condition known as “post-traumatic arthritis.” The biggest clue to this type of joint pain and stiffness is that it only occurs in the hands and fingers. If you only have arthritis type pain in your hands and not your knees or any other joints, it may be due to an old injury to the hands. Treatments for this type of hand pain would be anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and even bracing the hands for support.

3.    Exposure to Cold

When hands are exposed to cold, the blood vessels can tighten off and cut off blood flow. This can lead to stiff hands and fingers in the morning, or even in the evening after spending a day in cold weather. There is a condition that goesalong with autoimmune diseases called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon” thatcauses the blood vessels to constrict even with subtle temperature changes.

Indications that this is the issue include blueness to the hands and fingers, pain, tingling, and numbness to the hands or fingertips. Treatments include slow warming of the hands, wearing gloves or mittens, moving the hands and fingers to increase blood flow. For Raynaud’s, doctors may prescribe drugsthat help to increase circulation to the extremities.

4.    Excess Weight and Poor Diet

Too much weight can put a strain on your joints, even your hands and fingers.Poor diet can also lead to joint stiffness and pain. If you are eating foods with low nutritional value and/or foods that increase your weight like fast foods, junk food type snacks, and even drinking too many sodas with high fructose corn syrup, you may notice more joint pain and stiffness. Switching to foods with more nutrition can both help decrease your weight and overall fatigue, stiffness, and even muscle weakness.

5.    Nerve Problems

Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, Lyme disease, diabetic neuropathy (nerve issues due to increased blood sugar), vasculitis, and vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause stiff hands and fingers in the morning. Treatments for nerve problems include bringing the underlying condition under control, nerve medications, pain relievers, and hand bracing if needed.

What Can You Do to Relieve/Prevent the Stiffness?

There are some things you can do to help relieve and even prevent stiffness to your fingers and hands in the morning. These are easy and include:

  • Get plenty of rest. Make sure you are getting six to eight hours of good sleep each night. Not enough rest will not give your joints and muscles enough time to repair themselves. Unrestful sleep will also prevent your body from recovering. Make sure you turn off your TV, your phone and keep your sleeping area quiet.
  • Sleep warm, but not hot. Try to keep your sleeping environment warm, but not too hot. A temperature around 68 degrees is optimal for sleeping. You may want to invest in an electric blanket to help keep your muscles warm.
  • Try a warm morning soak. When you get up, try giving yourself extra time to soak in a warm tub with Epsom salt. Just 10 to 15 minutes in the tub can help loosen your fingers and hand joints for the day.
  • Eat healthy and drink good water. Eat a healthy diet made from fresh foods and try to reduce processed and fast foods. The chemicals in processed and fast foods build up in the body and can affect the smallest places first, like hand and finger joints. To flush your body, try using alkaline water or reverse osmosis water.
  • Check your sleeping position. You may be sleeping cramped up in a position that constricts your hands. If you shove your hands under your pillow while lying on your side, you may be unconsciously making a fist in your sleep. Sleep in a position that keeps your hands exposed and not under heavy items. You can also try placing rolled up washcloths in your hands during sleep to prevent making a fist.
  • Start your day with hand exercises. Try doing some simple stretches with your fingers. You can also open your hand all the way, then make a fist and open your hands again. If fingers aren’t too stiff, wiggle your fingers in a tapping motion like typing. Point them one by one and then pull them back.

When to See a Doctor

Stiff hands and fingers in the morning could be a sign of something more serious if it goes on consistently for a period of time. You need to check in with your doctor if you experience this problem for more than a few weeks. It is also important to get checked if you have other symptoms like:

  • Low-grade fevers of 99 degrees or higher
  • Overall body aches and joint pain in other areas
  • Fatigue and weakness all over your body
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sudden onset joint stiffness after an illness
 
 
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