Poor circulation in hands: Causes and how to improve it

Poor Circulation in HandsPoor circulation in the hands can occur when you have poor circulation overall. While most cases of poor circulation have prominent effects on the legs and feet, the hands are not immune.

Generalized conditions resulting in poor circulation, such as atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease, can sometimes lead to poor circulation in the hands. There are other causes that are more specific to this body part.

What causes poor circulation in the hands?


Weight gain: Excess body fat can compress blood supply to the hands, leading to poor circulation. Weight gain is actually one of the most common causes of the condition. Overweight or obese individuals who experience poor circulation in the hands can easily control this problem through adequate weight control, changing eating habits, and exercising regularly.

Lack of exercise: Most people think that the heart is solely responsible for circulating blood throughout the body, but this isn’t true. We know that our muscles and the elasticity of our blood vessels aid in this process as well. By staying active, we utilize all three of these blood-propelling methods, helping to ensure proper circulatory system functioning. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle go through long periods of inactivity, leading to poor circulation in the hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: This is another common cause of poor circulation. This condition results in pain, tingling, and numbness in the palm, thumb, index, and middle fingers that comes and goes. It is due to inflammation of tendons surrounding the membrane, resulting in pressure on the median nerve and symptom development. Tasks like working on a computer, carpentry, or needlework can aggravate this condition as they put stress on the wrist area. Carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to increased volume from swelling, creating poor circulation in the hands.

Cubital tunnel syndrome: This condition often resembles carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s located in the elbow rather than the wrist. Cubital tunnel syndrome presents when the ulnar nerve found at the elbow is stretched, which can impair circulatory function. Despite this condition stemming from the elbow, symptoms of poor circulation can reach the hands.

Raynaud’s disease: During times of stress or in response to cold temperatures, the blood vessels in the hand narrow, restricting blood flow. This is often appreciated as a blue discoloration of the fingertips. The sensation of coldness, numbness, and tingling can also be appreciated. Raynaud’s symptoms may also be seen in other distant parts of the body, such as the nose and toes.

Arteriosclerosis: A medical condition that results from excessive plaque buildup in the arteries. This accumulation narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow. Additional symptoms include numbness, tingling, nerve damage, and tissue damage. If atherosclerosis goes untreated for a long period of time, it may increase the risk of stroke development.

Diabetes: A metabolic condition of impaired glucose utilization, diabetes can be responsible for impaired circulation over time. This may lead to nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy in later stages.

Smoking and drug abuse: The active ingredients in cigarettes and certain drugs can have powerful effects on out blood vessels. Nicotine, for example, is known for increasing heart rate and raising blood pressure. It is also a vasoconstrictor, making blood vessels smaller and restricting blood flow.

What are the symptoms of poor blood circulation in hands?

Tingling sensation or numbness: This may feel like a strange stinging sensation in your hand. Occasionally, tingling and numbness may be accompanied by a bluish discoloration, signifying poor circulation in hands.

Weakness in hands: Proper blood circulation is required to feed the muscle that gives strength to our hands. In cases where blood supply is compromised, grip strength is often affected. Hands may also feel cold more often.

Muscle cramps: Decreased blood flow in the hands can result in muscle cramping.

Cracked skin: Poor blood circulation to the hand cuts off vital oxygen and nutrients to the skin, leading it to become overly dry and start to peel.

Treating poor circulation in hands

Foods to eat: Foods that contain high amounts of omega-3’s are known for promoting blood circulation and the cardiovascular system. This may include salmon and avocados. Herbal remedies such as Ginkgo Biloba are also known for dilating blood vessels and enhancing blood circulation. Antioxidant rich food such as pomegranate and oranges are also beneficial for improving circulation.

Foods to avoid: Excessive consumption of fatty foods can have a negative effect on blood vessels and the circulatory system as a whole. Eating too many saturated fats can promote cholesterol deposits and plaque buildup. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of sugar, salt, and processed foods in the diet, as they can have an effect on blood circulation

Essential oil massage: Poor circulation can be adequately treated with an essential oil massage. It’s recommended to use rosemary essential oil mixed with a carrier oil, such as olive or almond. Prepare massage oil with a ratio of 25 to 30 drops per two ounces respectively, then massage to relieve the area of poor circulation

Hydrotherapy: The use of hot or cold showers is known to help promote blood circulation. Hot water dilates blood vessels, promoting circulation. Cold water constricts blood vessels. Combining these two methods forces blood to circulate throughout the body or a specific body part.

Exercise: Exercising daily can help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. Exercising as little as 30 minutes a day can improve flow significantly.

Acupressure: A therapy that applies steady pressure for about 30 seconds to a specific point on the arms and hands. It focuses pressure on points that correspond to the largest and most accessible arteries in the upper extremities.

Hydration: Drinking between 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day is important for keeping the body well hydrated. By doing so, you ensure that cells can function at their best, improving circulation.

Mind the temperature: Distant extremities are known for getting cold much faster. This is made even worse if you suffer from a poor circulatory condition. Make sure to cover these parts of your body when exposed to cold temperatures.


Avoid stimulants: This includes coffee, tea, and alcohol, which can have an immediate effect on the blood. If taken in excess, they can interrupt blood circulation. Choose to drink green tea instead, as it is known for boosting blood circulation rather than inhibiting it

Quit smoking: A well-known cause of poor health and circulatory problems. Smoking restricts blood flow as it constricts blood vessels. Over time, this may become permanent, leading to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

Related: Poor circulation treatment: How to improve blood circulation

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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