What to Do if You Injure Your Hand – From Cuts to Broken Bones

Hand emergency

Some of the most common ailments treated in emergency care are hand injuries. Because of the frequency with which we use our hands, strains, sprains, fractures, cuts, burns, and dislocated joints.

Over one million hand injuries are treated annually as a result of workplace injuries alone. While you can take preventative measures to avoid a hand injury, accidents happen.

So what do you do if you injure your hand? This guide will cover common hand injuries and how to react during a hand emergency.

What Constitutes a Hand Emergency?

A hand injury can happen at any time. While those who partake in contact sports like football, rugby, and wrestling are at a higher risk of a hand injury, accidents often take place at work and at home. A hand injury usually happens quite quickly, but it can take a long time to heal.

Some incidents are more serious than others. In a hand emergency, it might be necessary to visit an emergency care clinic. But regardless of the severity, if you injure your hand, it’s important to treat the injury immediately.

It is important to have an understanding of first aid and keep basic medical supplies in the home. Some of the most common hand injuries include:

  • Burns
  • Cuts
  • Dislocation
  • Fractures
  • Sprains
  • Strains

Should something happen to your hand, you will need to have an understanding of the symptoms to determine what might have happened, and whether or not you require a trip to the emergency room. In many cases, a trip to emergency care is not necessary, but in severe cases, patients may require surgery. It is crucial to know how to properly treat a hand emergency at home, and when to seek professional care.

Understanding the Severity of a Hand Injury

Some injuries like minor cuts and burns are obvious, but determining if you have a strain or a sprain, or the difference between a fracture and a dislocated joint isn’t always as simple.

By paying attention to your symptoms, you can determine the severity of the hand injury. Many hand injuries can be treated at home with the right first-aid measures.

If you believe you have a fracture, a broken hand, or a broken finger, it is important to seek immediate treatment. Bones do not always heal properly without intervention, which can impact fine motor skills.

Symptoms of a Fracture include:

  • Bruising
  • Severe Hand Pain
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Obvious Change or Deformity to the Hand

Immediate First Aid Measures for a Hand Injury

Regardless of the severity of the injury, all hand injuries require special care. There are a few steps you can take immediately following an incident to avoid further complications.

The following first-aid measures should be taken immediately if you injure your hand.

  • Free Any Trapped Fingers From Objects
  • Control and Stop Bleeding
  • Clean the Wound
  • Cover the Site of a Wound with a Clean Bandage
  • Remove Rings and Bracelets
  • Do Not Touch Exposed Bones, Cover them with a Clean Bandage
  • Immobilize Using a Splint If Possible

Of course, each type of hand injury is different and should be treated differently. It is important to have a general understanding of how to best treat each condition, whether you are comfortable staying home, or you are simply looking to protect the injury until you see a doctor.

The RICE Approach

As a general rule of thumb, the RICE approach should be applied to any hand injury. RICE can be explained in the following way.

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

When you injure your hand or experience hand pain, it’s difficult to think clearly and take the proper steps to treat the injury. By remembering the RICE approach, you can think through your first aid procedure more critically.

These steps can help alleviate further bleeding or swelling, and avoid further damage. Taking the right steps immediately following an injury can help your hand heal faster.


Burns are one of the most common hand injuries. Some of the most common sources for burns on hands include curling irons, boiling water, ovens, BBQs, and the sun. Even holding your hands directly above boiling fluid on the stove can cause a painful steam burn.

If you endure a burn on the hand, you will know immediately. In addition to experiencing hand pain, the surface of the skin will often turn red or blister. The skin will feel as though it is stinging.

Many mistakes can be made in treating a burn. If you have a burn on your hand, you should take the following steps to care for it.

Treating a Burn

There are different degrees of burns.  From less to severe to severe, they are considered 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns.  Depending on the depth of the burn these burns can be serious, especially if it is a larger surface area.  Certain areas of the body,  usually require a burn center evaluation because they are that serious, and the hands are one of those areas. If you are not certain, if you sustain a burn it is always best to have an emergency room or hospital assess the degree and extent of it, and determine if you should be referred to a burn unit.


Cuts are an inevitable part of using our hands. We endure cuts all the time, whether it is a simple paper cut or a gardening injury. But cuts aren’t always so minor.

Cutting vegetables or using power tools increases the risk of a more serious cut. Depending on how deep a cut is, you can cause cuts or damage to tendons and ligaments.

In some cases, you can risk permanent damage or require surgery. If you believe you have cut a tendon, and are having trouble moving your hand, seek medical care immediately. Doctors only have 7 to 10 days to complete a repair.

Open wounds from cuts are at a high exposure to bacteria and as a result, carry an increased risk of infection. And while most cuts will stop bleeding on their own, deeper cuts may require significant amounts of compression and elevation. You may also require a trip to a medical clinic for stitches.

Treating a Cut

Remove rings or jewelry from your hands to prevent additional swellingn (if possible). Wash your hands with water to avoid infection.

If you need to stop the bleeding, get a clean cloth or bandage and apply gentle pressure. You should also elevate the cut by holding your arm above your heart.

When the bleeding has stopped, rinse the wound with water and wash around the cut with soap, but avoid getting soap in the cut. If you are unable to fully clean the wound, you will need to see a doctor to avoid infection. If the wound is clean, apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound.

Then, use gauze with tape or a clean bandage and create a protective dressing around the cut. Change your bandage daily to keep the wound clean.

If you haven’t had a tetanus shot recently, make sure to book one. You will also need to keep an eye open for signs of infection, like redness or pain. If you think there’s a chance you may have damaged a tendon, you will need to go to emergency care.


A dislocation happens when the end of a joint is forced out of its natural position. While it is not always easy to detect a dislocation in the hand, there are some symptoms to watch for.

If you are experiencing extreme pain, an inability to move your fingers or wrist, increased swelling, or an obvious deformity that has suddenly appeared, you may have a dislocation.

In this situation, it’s best to seek medical assistance. If a dislocated joint is not put back into position properly, it can cause permanent damage and even more pain.


Fractures happen when a bone is partially or completely broken. It is not always easy to detect with the naked eye either, but there are some clear symptoms associated with fractures including swelling, numbness, pain when gripping, obvious changes to the hand, or even exposed bone.

Fractures can lead to further complications including nerve damage, stiffness, and Osteoarthritis. It is important to have a fracture treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Bones need to heal in proper alignment.

While it is important to seek emergency care, there are things you can do on your way to the clinic to prevent further damage.

Creating a Splint

If you or someone around you has enough knowledge to successfully create a splint, it can help immobilize the impacted area on the way to the clinic. If you do have a fracture, it’s best to avoid moving your hand until it has been treated.

Splints should be applied but do not straighten out any impacted area. If you begin to feel swelling or numbness, loosen the splint. Wearing a splint too tight can cause compartment syndrome.

After visiting the doctor, you may be in a splint or cast. Use the impacted area as much as possible. It is important to maintain active muscles in that hand.

You should also keep a cast or splint clean and dry.


A sprain happens with a ligament is stretched or torn.

Sprains happen often when you put out your hands to catch your fall. The weight of the body falling on a stretched hand is enough impact to cause a sprain.

Treating a Sprain

Most sprains repair themselves. Apply the RICE method and avoid using the injured hand for a full day. After that, try massaging the hand, but it shouldn’t hurt.

If you think you have a sprain, you should avoid using warm tubs or hot showers or consuming alcohol for 48-72 hours. These activities may increase swelling. After 48-72 hours is complete, alternate between applying hot and cold compresses to the site.

If you suspect you have sprained a finger, you can use the buddy-tape method to tape it to another finger, provided that doesn’t hurt. When you apply the buddy tape, make sure the finger is relaxed and not stiff.


Strains happen when the tendons, or tissue that attaches muscles to bones are stretched or torn.

This often happens because of repetitive use of the hand but can also occur due to sudden overstretching. Strains often occur in workplaces because of the repetitive motion required during shift work. It is therefore important to consider your lifestyle and try to pinpoint the environment that is causing a strain.

Treating a Strain

In most cases, symptoms of a strain will improve within a few weeks. But you may consider making lifestyle changes to avoid repeat flare-ups.

If it’s possible, you can change the procedure at work. Take breaks, or switch hands. You can also wear a splint at work to immobilize the area for a few weeks.

Experts say the best way to treat a strain is by applying RICE. A heating pad can also help get the blood flowing again. Introducing hand exercises as a regular part of your routine can help strengthen the muscles as well.

Monitoring Recovery

While many hand injuries will heal without surgery, it is important to monitor any hand injury.

If there are signs of infection developing, or any additional swelling, book an appointment at a clinic to get it checked out. If the pain is persistent or getting worse, that is also a sign something is wrong.

Know What to Do If You Injure Your Hand

Hand injuries are the source of a lot of pain and inconvenience for many people. Because of how often we use our hands, a hand emergency can take place at any time.

Accidents happen, but you should know what to do if you injure your hand. By following these tips, you can avoid further damage and cut down your healing time.

Follow our blog to learn more about how you can prevent and treat common hand injuries.

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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