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“Handy Advice” for Preventing Hand Injuries

Our hands are a remarkable part of our human body.  They permit us to do so many things.  Just think how nice it is to hold hands with someone you love or to touch the face of  your child.  Your hands allow you to work both inside and outside the home.  If you are like most people, you may just take your hands for granted.  At Optimal Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, we often help persons who have experienced hand injury.  It is the hope of this blog to give you some prevention/protection tips to guard those precious possessions.  Here are some tips to avoid the most common causes of hand injuries:

1.  Proper form for carrying groceries 

Trying to carry multiple plastic bags at once creates a challenge for fingers, wrists and elbows.  When you do this, you are putting strain on many delicate finger joints by lifting too much weight in an awkward manner.  It is better to carry from the bottom of the bag or opt for paper so that the larger muscles of your arms can assist with the carry.  Remember to balance the loads between both arms to prevent back injury as well.  It is always a better option to choose a cart over a basket at the market even if you are just running in for a few items.  A basket can easily become very difficult to grasp as the weight of its contents increase.  Also keep in mind that when you go to lift heavy gallon jugs or bottles, you should try to use both hands rather than finger grasping the handle.  This avoids significant torque on the small joints of the hand.

2. Avoiding “Bagel Hand”

Did you know that some emergency rooms have actually coined a phrase for a common traumatic hand injury that is increasing in frequency?  This is the condition called “Bagel Hand” and results from serious cuts that can occur while people are trying to slice a bagel.  Bagels are now recognized as being one of the most dangerous foods for injury during preparation or serving!  Use a bagel slicer to cut a bagel.  If you must use a knife, use a serrated one and stabilize the bagel flat on a surface with your hand on top.  Slowly cut halfway through keeping the blade horizontal and then stand the bagel on its end and finish cutting downward while gripping the upper half.  Never try to cut a frozen bagel!

3. Proper Hand Ergonomics for Reading

Do you have a tendency to “pinch pages” while reading?  Doing this for an extended period of time can increase finger and thumb strain and stiffness.  This affects these small delicate joints and tendons in a wear and tear manner.  Try alternate ways to keep your hands more flat while holding something to read. 

4.  Take care of minor hand injuries to avoid infection

A simple paper cut or a thorn prick while gardening can provide a means for bad microbes to find a way inside a hand and cause a dangerous infection.  Always wash promptly with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage as needed.  If the area becomes red or warm, seek additional medical care.  Due to the intricate design of our hands, they are prone to be difficult to treat once a bad infection has occurred. 

5.  Don’t have a Dishwashing Disaster

A blind search in hot soapy water for knives and sharp tools often can lead to cuts affecting tendons which will require surgery and rehab.  Be smart and wash separately with clear view of these items.  Also, be mindful of glassware like wine glasses.  An injury can occur to the tendons on the tops of your hands if you have a tendency to place your hand inside the glass with a sponge while washing.  The pressure of your hand can shatter glass and result in severe cuts.  Get a sponge tool that lets you keep your hands out of the glassware.

6.  New Mommy Wear and Tear

1 in 4 new moms will experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  With a new baby, moms are doing frequent repetitive tasks such as lifting, carrying, rocking, burping, not to mention managing the equipment that new babies bring.  Remembering to take frequent breaks, maintain good posture and switching positions for tasks can help a great deal.  Optimal Physical Therapy often customizes treatments and suggestions for baby handling for new moms facing this type of pain.

7. Use the Right Tool for the Task

Spring is quickly coming and many are planning home improvement projects or outdoor landscape work.  There are things you can do when using hand tools to keep hands safe from injury.  Work with good lighting and know the manufacturer’s directions.  Consider the weight of your tool.  The lightest weight to get the job done is best and will limit muscle fatigue.  Make sure your tool is properly maintained.  If it needs oiled or sharpened to be efficient, do this before you try to use it.  Smaller diameter handles allow for more “precision grip” while larger diameter permit more of a “power” grip.  Choose the best fit for your task.  If working on a large task, remember to build in mini breaks  to allow your body to recover from fatigue.  Follow proper whole body ergonomics:  Elbows close to your sides of your body at approximately 90 degrees of bend, create a workstation that allows for sit or stand option with support under forearms and elbows.  Avoid working postures with outstretched arms forward or to the side as this will reduce the precision necessary to safely operate hand tools and will also cause rapid fatigue of shoulder and neck muscles.  

We hope that this information has been helpful to you.

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