It can be as simple as a run-in with a table saw, falling on ice or cutting your hand with a knife, but how you react to a wrist or hand injury can be crucial to hand functionality in the end.
“Wrist and hand injuries are one of the most frequent injuries that bring people into the emergency department. We cut our hands, bash our hands or fall on our wrists a lot,” Sanford said.
Steps to take in the first five minutes
With wrist and hand injuries, knowing what to do in the first five minutes is crucial:
- Control the bleeding and stabilize. Direct pressure is an important first step. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to apply direct pressure. Do not remove the cloth or paper towel after the pressure has been applied because that slows the clot from forming. Only in extreme circumstances should you put a tourniquet around your arm. If you have a wrist injury, stabilizing it helps reduce pain as you go to the emergency department.
- Get help. It is important that you get help as soon as possible from someone nearby or calling 911. A wrist or hand injury shouldn’t wait until the next day to be evaluated. It is safest if you do not drive yourself to the emergency department.
- Collect anything severed. If the injury included a severed body part, bring it with you to the emergency department. While the severed body part may not be able to be reattached, it may provide other functions such as tissue for skin grafts.
Expectations after the injury
“Depending on the injury, you may not get things back to the way they were, so what you are looking for is maximizing what you are left with,” Sanford said.
If you sever a finger, typically you experience changes in sensation and motion.
If you fracture your wrist, you typically have some degree of stiffness or weakness, but you should get most of your functionality back.
For finger sprains and dislocations, you typically have some leftover tightness or thickness on a permanent basis that should not jeopardize overall function.
If you have questions about hand and wrist injuries, talk with your provider.