Our hands and the flexibility of our fingers — especially our thumb — are one of the major physical aspects that separate us from other members of the animal kingdom. The bones, muscles, joints and tendons allow us to perform tasks that range from delicate work such as sewing all the way along a continuum to grasping heavy barbells for weightlifting or other strength-based activities.
Often, it is not until we’ve injuries one or more fingers or part of our hand that we come to realize how much we depend upon these nearly invisible “tools” in most of our activities of daily living. Eating, tying one’s shoelaces, writing, typing or even driving can be difficult to impossible to perform with certain types of hand injuries.
Don’t wait until you’ve injured your hand and require hand surgerybefore you consider ways to protect your hands from injury at home or on the job.
The Prevalence of Hand Injuries
We use our hands so frequently in so many activities that it’s natural that hand injuries occur so frequently. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s publication, the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey,emergency room patients commonly complained of injuries to the fingers, wrist or hand over ten percent of the time — the most frequent area of complaint for accidental injuries.
When specifically evaluating hand injuries that occur at work, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration reported that nearly 18 percent of work-related injuries requiring missed workday involved the fingers and hands. Many of these injuries can be prevented through the use of caution, protective equipment and evaluating situations for probable injury.
Three Ways to Prevent Hand Injuries and the Subsequent Need for Hand Surgery
Always Use the Proper Tools & Equipment
Protect your hands with the proper types of gloves whenever you’re performing manual or physical labor. Even a simple scratch to your hand from picking up small branches having fallen upon your lawn can result in an infection and subsequent damage to tendons or joints. Always wear gloves when working with metal that may have sharpened or corroded edges. Use the proper equipment with all the provided safety measures in place, such as a saw blade shield or when fireproof gloves when arc welding.
Never Work Around Moving Machinery Without Emergency Stops Available and Within Reach
When at home, never work to repair or adjust moving machinery unless you’ve been trained to do so. This includes attempting to clean grass clippings from around moving mower blades on riding or push lawn mowers or reaching down to remove an object on the ground while operating a weed eater.
At home and at work, look to identify possible “pinch points,” or those areas or situations where machinery or material can shift to catch your hand or finger in situation where a potential crush injury can occur. At work, make sure emergency machine stops are within reach (or are available via foot pedals) and avoid wearing jewelry, chains or other items that can become caught in gears.
Protect Your Hands from Burns
There are many types of burn injuries where you can place your hands at risk. Protect your hands from scald or steam injuries when cooking or canning by wearing oven mitts. Use electrical gloves when working around electrical wires to prevent electrical burns if a live wire is touched. Never move fireplace or campfire logs with your bare hands; instead, use tongs or make sure you have a heavy pair of fire resistant gloves available.
Take care of your hands with these simple steps and others that may be applicable to your livelihood or recreational activities. Hand surgery has advanced a great deal in the past few years, but it remains an intervention that you want to avoid. Contact a certified hand surgeon to get more personalized hand care advice