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Why Do My Fingers Hurt When It's Cold

Why Do My Fingers Hurt When It's Cold

When winter temperatures arrive, many people experience stiffness and discomfort in their extremities. While sore fingers and hands in chilly weather is unlikely a life-threatening situation, it may signal an underlying health issue that needs attention.

Rely on the expertise of internal medicine physician Samuel I. Fink, MD, FACP, to get to the root of your pain. In line with providing the best internal medicine in Tarzana, California, Dr. Fink conducts a thorough evaluation and recommends the most appropriate course of action to help you get relief. 

The science of cold-induced finger pain

The primary reason your fingers hurt in cold weather is due to the body's natural response to cold temperatures. When exposed to cold, your body instinctively makes an effort to preserve heat, especially around your vital organs. 

To do this, it reduces blood flow to the extremities, such as your fingers and toes, by constricting the blood vessels in these areas. This process, known as vasoconstriction, helps minimize heat loss but also reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in your fingers, which can cause pain and stiffness.

Raynaud's phenomenon

For some people, this reaction is more pronounced and can be a sign of Raynaud's disease. Raynaud's is a condition in which the small blood vessels in the extremities overreact to cold temperatures causing fingers to turn white or blue, followed by red as blood flow returns. 

People with Raynaud's often experience pain, numbness, and tingling in their fingers during these episodes. It’s often linked to autoimmune conditions, such as lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome. 

Arthritis and cold weather

If you have arthritis, you also might notice that your symptoms worsen in cold weather. The exact reason for this is not entirely clear, but it's believed that changes in barometric pressure can cause expansion and contraction in the tissues and fluids within the joints. 

This can lead to increased joint pain and stiffness, particularly in inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Protecting your hands from the cold

Here are some tips to combat discomfort in your hands when temperatures dip:

Keep warm

This might seem obvious, but it's crucial. Wear gloves or mittens that are insulated and water-resistant. Mittens are more effective than gloves as they keep your fingers together, conserving heat. Consider layering thin glove liners under heavier gloves for extra warmth, especially if you're going to be outside for an extended period.

Keep dry

Wet conditions can lead to increased pain. Ensure your gloves are dry, and if they get wet, change them as soon as possible. It's a good idea to carry an extra pair of gloves with you during the winter months so you're always prepared for unexpected conditions.

Manage stress

If you have Raynaud's, managing stress can help reduce episodes. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are beneficial. Additionally, try to avoid sudden changes in temperature and stressful situations, as these can trigger Raynaud's episodes.

Get regular exercise

Regular exercise improves your overall circulation and can help reduce the frequency and severity of pain in your fingers during cold weather. Activities like brisk walking, running, or cycling are excellent for boosting blood flow. Even on colder days, indoor exercises can help maintain good circulation.

Consult with a doctor

If your pain is severe, persistent, or if you suspect Raynaud's phenomenon, consult with Dr. Fink for advice and treatment options tailored to you. In some cases, Dr. Fink may recommend medication to improve blood flow or suggest other therapies specific to your needs.

Don’t put off getting help when your fingers hurt. Call us to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink today.

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