Have you ever stopped to consider how useful your hands are and how important they are to you? That’s why an injury to your hand or fingers can create a big headache for you.
With all of us in self-isolation during the current worldwide COVID-19 crisis, there’s a very good chance we’ll all be ‘getting our hands dirty’ and doing more jobs around the house or garden – the site of many preventable injuries each year.
But for that very reason it’s even more important to avoid injury. Presenting with a complex hand injury will create a greater burden on health services struggling to deal with coronavirus so let’s all do our part and look after our hands.
Look at your hands. They’re such a beautiful manifestation of form and function. Strong yet agile, delicate and dextrous but powerful, our hands enable us to interact with the world around us. However, anatomically they’re extremely complicated – like a finely crafted instrument – and because of this, a minor injury can result in extensive rehabilitation.
Not far beneath the skin’s surface are important structures like blood vessels supplying oxygen, nerves giving feeling to our fingers, and small muscles. On the back of the hand, the dorsal aspect, is the beautifully complex array of the extensor tendon mechanism to the thumb and fingers. So, it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate that even a small cut on the hand could result in serious damage.
According to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare almost 70,000 (mostly men) were admitted to Australian hospitals in 2016/17 with hand and wrist injuries, the most common being open wounds and fractures. An article from the American Journal of Hand Surgery (can we link to it?) found that not only were hands the primary site of injury but the very commonplace Stanley knife was the chief perpetrator, causing as many injuries as all the power tools in the study combined.
The message here is that it’s not only big, noisy power tools that cause damage; it can be something as conventional and mundane as a kitchen knife, a pair of scissors, or a broken wine glass that can cause a significant problem.
Just days ago, amid this COVID-19 lockdown, the British Society for Surgery of the Hand issued a warning reminding everyone to take extra caution while they’re at home getting jobs done. They singled out power tools, lawn mowers, and hedge trimmers but as we’ve just learned, simply using a knife or Stanley knife can be problematic.
While the kitchen may be the heart of the home, it’s also where we use our hands every day and where many injuries occur too easily. Knives are the obvious culprit but others I’ve seen in my practice are broken wine glasses, the sharp edges on metal cans, burns from hot oil or scalding pans, and lacerations from stick blenders and other appliances with sharp blades that spin when turned on by accident.
And while you’re in the kitchen, also be aware of ‘avocado hand’, which has actually been written up scientifically with about 50,000 injuries occurring in the US from 1998 to 2017, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
It’s an injury we see commonly and looking at this picture you can see how this could occur. One little slip with the knife and you’re straight into the palm, lacerating a finger or even damaging your forearm. So, this is very real and very dangerous – so be careful with those avocados!
Outdoors, be careful with power tools, knives, the lawn mower, and sharp objects which can leave you with a penetrating wound. In addition, hot tools and flames can burn you while a hammer landing in the wrong place will result in a blunt trauma and significant lacerations and fractures to the tips of fingers.
The important anatomy of your hands is just below the skin so even a seemingly minor injury could mean reconstructive surgery and at least 12 weeks of intensive hand therapy.
So, as you plan your stay-at-home activities, consider your technique before picking up the drill, the hammer, a knife to chop onions or to cut into an avocado. We want you to take care, especially at this very difficult time when we also need to consider taking that burden off the health system as they deal with coronavirus.