According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, hand injuries were responsible for nearly two million emergency room visits in 2017. Hand injuries are the most common body part injured at work and treated in emergency rooms.
However, hand injuries are far from inevitable, even for the most dangerous jobs and activities. There are very simple steps you can take to protect your hands at work, at home or on the go.
Types of Hand Injuries
Each hand and wrist has 29 bones, 29 joints, 123 ligaments and 34 muscles. All of this muscle, bone and connective tissue allows the hands to do the work of fine manipulation, but there’s a catch: It also means the hands are delicate. Damage to any of these structures can make using the hands painful, and could possibly even disable you.
A 2015 study from the American Society of Safety Engineers, in conjunction with two manufacturing companies, found that the hand was nearly twice as likely to be injured as the arm, shoulder or wrist. It also found that about four in 10 work-related hand injuries were cuts or puncture wounds.
Other types of hand injuries can include:
- Fractures: Fractures are, quite simply, broken bones.
- Sprains: Sprains are damaged ligaments—the tough, fibrous bands of tissue that connect bones to other bones.
- Strains: Strains can be injuries to either a muscle or its tendon, the tissue that connects said muscle to a bone.
For some work-related injuries, such as severe crushing injuries, one or more of these types of injuries can occur.
Protecting Your Hands
Injury prevention starts with awareness. Know the risks and the dangers of your job, your hobbies and any activities, even simple day-to-day tasks like cooking or typing. If you’re working with tools, knives or anything hot, you could be at risk. And don’t forget, repetitive motions like typing can lead to overuse injuries, so don’t discount your office job as a source of hand injuries either.
Here are some tips to help you avoid injury:
- Knives: Knives should be sharp. A dull knife is more prone to slipping, and you’re more likely to be careful if you know it’s sharp. When chopping, curl your fingers under and guide whatever you’re chopping with your knuckles instead of your fingertips.
- Tools: Always respect power and hand tools. When hammering, use a pair of pliers to hold the nail in case your aim is off. Make sure your workspace is well-lit and you know exactly where you’re aiming your tool at all times. In addition, never disable safety features.
- General: Wear well-fitting clothes, especially if you’re working with machinery or appliances; sleeves can get caught and pulled into anything that rotates. if possible, operate automated machinery remotely.
In my practice, I’ve seen so many hand injuries that could have been prevented with a little more awareness, but I understand that everyone’s attention slips now and then. If you’ve sustained a hand injury through your job or an activity, there’s no need to be embarrassed. Request an appointment with me or one of my colleagues and any of us would be happy to help.