Hand Injury First Aid Tips from a Hand Doctor

Disclaimer: Any injury to the hand or wrist should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible. This includes cuts, burns, blunt force trauma, and any other type of injury.

The human hand contains 29 bones, 29 joints, 34 muscles, 123 ligaments, 48 nerves, and 30 arteries—plus all the arteries and ligaments that are too little to be named. You use every single one of these components every day. With so many moving parts, it’s not surprising that hand injuries can be serious.

When you have an injured hand or wrist, avoid self-diagnosis; only a hand doctor can accurately determine if it’s a sprain, strain, broken bone, or something else. Before you can arrive at the doctor’s office, use these first aid tips to minimize injury and relieve pain and swelling.

For All Injuries

Remove any rings, bracelets, or other jewelry as quickly as possible. Otherwise, swelling from the injury could cause the jewelry to cut off blood flow to part of your hand, and it might become impossible to remove the jewelry without cutting it.

If you can’t get the bracelet or ring off, visit the hospital or your hand specialist right away to have it cut off before it causes further injury.

For Sprains, Strains, Dislocations, or Fractured Bones

The first step is to reduce the swelling as much as you can. Wrap an ice pack in cloth and apply it to your hand. Keep holding your hand high, above the level of your heart, until you’re at the hospital or in an ambulance.

To avoid worsening the injury, DO NOT try to straighten any misshapen fingers, and DO NOT try to push a bone back into place. If a bone is sticking out of your skin, cover the wound with some clean gauze; use medical tape to secure the bandage.

For Cuts

For cuts, the key is to stop the bleeding. Place a clean gauze over the wound and apply direct pressure to the cut until it stops bleeding. If it doesn’t stop, DO NOT remove pressure. Add another piece of gauze over the first piece and keep applying pressure. If possible, hold your hand above your heart, and try not to move.

Deep cuts need immediate attention from a hand surgeon to minimize the risk of infection, nerve damage, or losing a finger.


These treatments are not a substitute for going to the hand doctor; they’re only first aid. Any injury, no matter how large or small, should be seen immediately by a physician to preserve your hand’s function and prevent major problems down the road.