From the blog of Dr. Barbara Bergin
Our hands are definitely some of the most specialized parts of our bodies, and injury or disability in that area puts us at great disadvantage. So, I’ll start with my hand mantra:
- Don’t be so grabby. That’s right. When you spread your hand out wide to grab something heavy and large, you stress the delicate structures in your hand quite a bit, especially if you have a delicate little hand or it’s an older hand. Limit the grabbing of big books, big milk cartons, jar lids and other large heavy objects. Use the internet, get smaller milk cartons, use jar openers (or men) and lift lighter loads.
- And again, R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) if you’ve injured yourself.
- Most pharmacies and grocery stores carry wrist braces and aluminum splints. Use them if you’ve sprained, or think you might have broken something.
- Numbness in your hand at night? Might be carpal tunnel syndrome, if it’s your thumb, index or middle fingers. Wear a wrist brace to bed. If the tingling is in your pinky, avoid leaning on chair arms and car consoles. Try to sleep with your arms at your sides, rather than flexed up at the elbow, where it compresses the funny bone (ulnar) nerve at your elbow. Don’t read in bed!
- Are one or more of your fingers locking in a bent position? Could be a trigger finger. Put an aluminum splint around the middle knuckle, to keep it from ending to the point that it locks. If you can take an NSAID like Aleve or Advil, give it a try for a few days, and see if the locking (triggering) goes away. Eventually, you might need an injection, or maybe even surgery, but this might help temporarily. If you catch it early, it might go away!
- Hands are perfect areas to try out the old saying, “if it hurts, don’t do it.” Give painful, repetitive activities a rest.
- Try using an electric toothbrush rather than a traditional one. Better for your teeth as well as your hands, because you don’t have to grab it to get the tooth-cleaning results.
- Try holding the steering wheel of your car down low, at the 4:00 and 8:00 positions rather than 2:00 and 10:00. It will keep you from grabbing tight, with the thumb hyper-extended. If you’ve started a weight lifting program, avoid grabbing the dumbbells with a death grip. It will help prevent tendonitis and repetitive strain injuries. Wear weight lifting gloves.
- Hit your fingernail with a hammer and have a throbbing hematoma under the nail? Yes, you can wash your hand then burn the tip of a paper clip with a match, until it’s red hot and stick it through the nail right over the middle of that hematoma. I’ve done it! It works. If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll end up in the ER, because it will hurt like [heck] later on, and then the paper clip thing won’t work because the blood will be clotted. And you may as well not go to the ER anyway, because they won’t give you narcotics for a painful nail hematoma. You can take ibuprofen from the comfort of your own home.
- Jam your finger and the tip of it won’t straighten out. That might be a mallet finger. Get an aluminum splint and splint it straight.
- If there is obvious deformity, crunching, grinding, something sticking out of the skin, numbness, or blueness, or sever, painful swellling, you will likely have to go to the ER. But if it’s not that bad, then splint/brace it and do#3, until you can see your primary care doc, get a telemedicine visit or go see your favorite orthopod.
To see more information and advice from Dr. Bergin, subscribe to her blog by going to her website at www.drbarbarabergin.com.