Summer is here which means more time enjoying the outdoors and working to maintain landscaping. This may mean mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges or cutting down those hanging tree limbs. These activities may require the use of equipment that has very sharp edges. In the summer, hand therapists see many injuries related to these activities. One of those being tendon injuries, which can mean a cut of the tendon(s) in the forearm or hand that help open and close the hand. Tendon injuries can be very serious injuries, especially if not correctly addressed with surgery and rehabilitation. If you cut yourself and find a lack of ability to move a finger, thumb or wrist with your own power, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Typically, a tendon injury will require surgical repair. Hand therapy then becomes a large part of the recovery. You can find a local certified hand therapist through the American Society of Hand Therapists at www.asht.org/find-a-therapist.
After surgery you should expect to be placed in a brace to protect the repaired tendon(s). This typically occurs within a week following your surgery. Exercises will then be started to keep the joints of the fingers flexible. When appropriate, specific exercises will be initiated to use the newly repaired tendon. The therapist will also help address possible limitations such as scarring, swelling, pain management, as well as safe ways to continue to live your life. Typically, you will have limited-to-no use of the hand for at least a month. It is important to know that even after the initial phase of limitation, returning to all activities will still be restricted possibly up to 3 months. These restricted activities may include avoiding strong gripping or extreme movements. Strong gripping and extreme movements may place the tendon in a compromising or potentially harmful position that could lead to re-rupture of the tendon. If the injury is on the palm side of your hand, avoid the outstretch open hand position, as in falling. If the injury is on the back side of the hand, avoid the fist position with the wrist coming in towards your body. Life after a tendon injury can return to normal, and all prior activities can resume if the injury is treated promptly and appropriately.
Lawnmower and equipment safety can prevent injuries like this from occurring. Always remember:
- Slow down, take your time and be aware of your surroundings.
- Allow all tools to fully shut off and all moving parts come to a stop before using your hand and to remove clogs.
- Never reach blindly into equipment when cleaning.
- Ask for help when lifting and moving equipment that is heavy.
Stacy Baker, MOT, OTR/L, CHT is a Certified Hand Therapist and active member of the American Society of Hand Therapists.