specializing in advanced surgical care of hand, wrist, and elbow injuries and conditions

Keep your hands safe this gardening season

Safe GardeningApril showers bring May flowers and for many of us that means getting to work in our gardens. While a day spent in the garden can be a relaxing activity it is important to take proper precautions to help prevent potential and often serious hand injuries. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand report emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 outdoor garden- tool- related accidents a year. A few simple steps may help to avoid becoming one of these statistics.

Wear gloves for protection: Thick leather or suede gloves will protect the hand from blistering, sunburn, insect bites, poison ivy and also fingernail damage. Gloves will also protect the hand from fertilizers, pesticides and fungus that live in the soil. A small cut or lesion can lead to a major hand infection.

Avoid repetitious movements: Repetitious movements such as digging, raking, planting bulbs, pulling weeds, pruning and trimming can cause irritation of the tendons and nerves in the elbow, wrist and hand causing injuries such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Break up large tasks and take frequent breaks every 15 minutes for resting and stretching. Attempt to vary the activity so the same muscles and tendons aren’t working overtime.

Take caution when digging: Buried sharp objects or debris can cause tendon Safe Gardeninglacerations or punctures of the skin. Use the correct tool rather than your hand when digging to avoid injury.

Use appropriate hand tools: Use tools with padded or wide handles to protect the small joints in our hands. However, avoid “form fitted” tool handles as one size does NOT fit all. People with larger hands will find their fingers overlap the built in grooves causing unnecessary pressure and pain. Individuals with smaller hands will need to spread their fingers apart to fit in the grooves causing discomfort, decreased grip strength, hand fatigue which may cause loss of control of the hand tool.

Proper ergonomic posture: It is important to maintain good whole body posture but is equally important to practice good wrist and hand posture. Keeping the wrist in a neutral or straight position will allow the greatest grip strength and the least amount of stress and strain on the muscles and tendons. Avoid sitting back on your knees not only is it bad for your knees it also requires you to push most of your body weight up using your hands and wrists which places unnecessary pressure through these small joints. It is recommended to use a garden stool or bench.

Practice joint protection and energy conservation: Alternate hands when doing a repetitive tasks such as digging or scooping. Avoid sustained grip activities such as pruning, trimming or cutting and use both hands for heavy activities to allow for an equal distribution of the weight.

When to see a hand surgeon

You may need to see a hand surgeon if you have sustained a laceration or cut that has caused numbness and tingling that does not go away if you are unable to bend or straighten your hand or finger or if your injury site becomes red, swollen, warm to touch or a yellowish discharge is noted. You can contact Dr. Burke for a consultation at (570) 877-2289.

We hope you find these tips helpful. Stay safe in the garden and Happy Spring from Dr. Casey Burke and everyone at Hand Surgery Associates!