Your hands are under attack. Hand and finger injuries account for nearly one-quarter of injuries reported to the Department of Labor. That makes them the most frequent preventable injuries in the workplace.
You can experience many types of finger injuries. Some are more common than others, but all of them are preventable. You must take comprehensive steps to prevent finger injuries, and the first step is informing yourself.
How can you damage the bones in your fingers? What are other parts of your fingers you can damage? How can you prevent finger injuries without harming your job?
Answer these questions and you can have healthy fingers for years to come. Here are six of the most common finger injuries.
A fracture is a broken bone in your finger. Each finger has three phalanges, which are thin bones that lie at the core of your finger. These bones can break vertically or horizontally.
Each finger also has a metacarpal bone, which connects the finger to the palm. The metacarpal bones can break as well, which can create pain and impair mobility.
Avoid Crushing Situations
Many people break their fingers by crushing them inside doors and other objects. If you are pushing a door open, you should push it in the center away from the door hinge or side. Keep your fingers close together so you are less likely to get them caught.
If you are using heavy machinery, read the instructions to see how you can avoid crushing your fingers. Do not grab at objects that are caught between two parts of a machine. Turn the machine off and use a grabber tool to remove the object.
Gloves can provide some protection for your fingers so the bones do not break. Wear gloves that cover the entire length of your fingers. Open-tipped gloves can protect your metacarpal bones, but they offer little protection for your phalanges.
Your gloves should fit comfortably around your hands without being too tight. Try out a few pairs before you buy one.
Each finger has three joints, and each joint can become dislocated. A dislocated joint can pull the bones in the finger out of place, causing a noticeable deformity.
You may feel pain, numbness, or tingling, especially if you have a significant dislocation. Your finger may change color due to bruising or bleeding.
Dislocations can lead to permanent disabilities, so go to your doctor with your dislocated finger. Do not try to pop the joint back into place, as you may pull muscles or damage blood vessels.
Be Careful When Stretching
You can pop a joint out of place when you are stretching your fingers. Never bend your fingers at an extreme angle, and be careful when cracking your knuckles.
If you’re worried about dislocations, you should do some basic stretches that have a minimal risk of harming your joints. Tighten your hands into fists, hold for 30 seconds, and then release your hands and extend your fingers as wide as possible. This stretch does not apply pressure to your joints while flexing your muscles.
If you find it hard to make a fist, you can put your hands down on a table and then straighten your fingers out. Try to make them as flat as possible, but do not force your joints.
Monitor Your Hands for Arthritis
Arthritis can wear down your joints, making it more likely for you to experience dislocations. Though many people associate arthritis with older Americans, young people can develop it as well.
Signs of arthritis include pain in the joints, difficulty moving the fingers, and swelling. These symptoms may occur without any signs of injury. Pain and stiffness may be most apparent in the morning, but you may experience symptoms throughout the day.
If you think you have arthritis, you should go to your doctor. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can lead to problems throughout your body, including in your fingers and hands.
Ligaments connect the exterior of your bones together. If you stretch or tear a ligament in your finger, you can develop a sprain.
A sprain is not the same as a muscle strain. A muscle strain occurs when you overextend the muscles in your finger, causing the muscle fibers to tear. Most muscle strains heal themselves within a few days, though you should rest your strained finger.
Tape Your Fingers
Buddy straps are splints that attach two fingers together. A finger you have injured or sprained can be attached to an uninjured finger. This will prevent the injured finger from moving around and pull damaged tissue into place.
You can wear buddy straps before or after you have experienced an injury to the finger. However, buddy straps can limit your range of motion with your fingers.
You can wear supportive wraps instead that enclose each finger. You can put these wraps on any part of your finger, though most people place them around the metacarpal bones.
Use Assistive Devices
Many older people sprain their fingers or wrists during a fall. They hold their arms out to catch themselves, then they land on their hands and damage their ligaments.
If you have mobility issues, you should use assistive devices like a walker to move around. Talk to a therapist and learn how you can use one. You can also install grip rails around your home to reduce your risk of finger injuries and falls.
Cut fingers are among the most common injuries in the United States. Most cuts do not result in complications, but some people develop infections or extreme pain. Even small cuts can lead to a life-threatening infection.
45,000 people amputate their fingers. An amputation is a medical emergency, but you can have your finger put back in place if you go to the hospital right away.
Be Careful With Knives
Most people cut themselves while preparing meals. If you are not familiar with using a knife, go to a culinary school or community center and get lessons on using one. You should also read a guide on how to hold a chef’s knife.
Grip the handle of the knife with one hand. When you are chopping very small foods, you can hold the back of the knife with your fingers. If you are not using your other hand, you should keep it away from your cutting board.
Never grab at a falling knife. Move your hands out of the way and let the knife fall to the floor. While you are carrying a knife, pick it up by the handle and point the blade down and away from yourself.
Protect Your Nailbeds
A cut on your nailbed can cause significant pain and impair your ability to move your finger. You may even cut or tear your nailbed off your finger, which can lead to an infection.
You should grip a piece of food or fabric whenever you are cutting it. However, you should curl your fingers inward so your nails are facing in and your knuckles are pointing out. This keeps your nails out of harm’s way.
You can wear thimbles whenever you are sewing or working with heavy machinery. Gloves can also help, though you should buy gloves with tips that protect your nails.
5. Trigger Fingers
The tendons in your fingers help you bend your fingers. Linings on the outside of the tendons allow the fingers to move, and the linings pass through areas of soft tissue called pulleys.
If the pulleys fail, your fingers can become locked in place. This causes your finger to bend or fill with fluid, which can make it hard to move your fingers without pain.
Trigger fingers are recognizable because you are unable to straighten your finger. Your finger may be bent like a claw, and you may not be able to move it at all.
If you can move your finger, you may feel a popping or locking sensation. Trigger fingers are a frequent cause of stiff fingers as well.
Any of your fingers can become a trigger finger, including your thumbs. People with gout and arthritis are at a higher risk for trigger fingers, but anyone can develop them.
Let Go of Your Grip
Trigger fingers are common amongst people who grip things for work. If you grab things like a mouse or joystick, you can damage your tendons and pulleys and develop trigger fingers.
When you are not gripping something, you should relax your hands. Keep them down by your sides and extend your fingers out.
While you are holding something, you should not apply too much pressure. Grip the object gently and press it against your palm and wrist for support.
Recover From Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Trigger fingers can be a complication of carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. Though most surgeons are careful not to touch the pulleys and tendons in the wrist and fingers, some surgeons accidentally damage them. Some people overexert themselves after surgery, which can damage the tendons.
Rest after any operation on your wrist, hand, and fingers. If you need to move your fingers after surgery, you should bend your whole hand, not just the tips of your fingers.
Elevate your hands over your heart so blood can circulate between your hands and your heart. You can put your hands down on a soft surface, but make sure you are not applying too much pressure to them.
6. Mallet Fingers
A tendon lies at the tip of your finger, allowing it to remain straight. If you damage this tendon, you develop a mallet finger. Your finger curves back toward your palm, and you are unable to strengthen your fingertip.
Mallet fingers are similar to trigger fingers in that both relate to damaged tendons and cause curved fingers. However, mallet fingers are only curved at the tips of the fingers. You may develop swelling and bruising, even if you did not strike your fingers forcibly.
Protect Your Fingers When Catching and Throwing
Mallet fingers are among the most common injuries for athletes. Many baseball and football players hurt their fingers when they try to catch balls that are thrown at them. You can also hurt your fingers if you throw a ball too hard and strike your fingertips on the ball.
When you catch a ball, you should hold your hand out and try to catch it with your palm. You can also bring the ball toward the center of your chest, away from your fingertips.
When you throw, you should move your arm and hand in a fluid fashion. Holding your arm in place while you throw puts pressure on your fingertips, which can lead to injury.
Be Careful When Applying Pressure With Your Fingertips
You can also develop mallet fingers if you press down on objects too hard with your fingertips. If you need to hold something in place, hold it with a flat hand instead of the tips of your fingers.
If you must use your fingertips, spread your fingers out and apply even pressure. Do not tilt your hand to one side or put your elbow on the table, as your elbow can pull on a finger.
The Most Common Types of Finger Injuries
You can take steps against all types of finger injuries. Wear protective gear to protect your fingers from fractures, dislocations, sprains, and cuts. Be careful with how you grip things, especially knives and sharp objects.
Stretch your fingers to improve your mobility, but do not pull your fingers in one direction too far. Whenever you grab or apply pressure with your fingers, you should be even across all of your fingers.
If you experience a finger injury, you must get help. Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas provides hand and finger care for Texas residents. Contact us today.