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Cut your hand? When is your cut serious enough for stitches or hand nerve surgery?

If you’ve cut your hand while slicing or pitting an avocado, you’re not alone! Did you know that avocados are responsible for about 24 hospital visits per day across the country? Technically, it’s not the avocado’s fault, but as the fruit (Yes! It is a fruit!) has risen in popularity, so have knife-related hand injuries. It’s so common that it’s been dubbed “avocado hand” and can be a minor cut or call for major hand nerve surgery if you sever tendons or nerves.

Whether you’ve cut your hand on an avocado or doing something else entirely, it’s important to know when you should get medical care.   

You should always get immediate medical attention for a cut if you cannot stop the bleeding, if you’ve lost feeling around the area that is cut, or if the cut is big enough or deep enough that you cannot bring the edges back together when pressing lightly. In these cases, you may need immediate attention to stop blood loss and save nerves and tendons from serious or permanent damage.

If your cut is serious, an emergency room or urgent care team will likely recommend an orthopedic hand specialist to evaluate the damage and determine the best course of treatment. This may include stitches or surgery.

How do I know if I need stitches?

Even with a small or less serious cut, you should be sure to wash the area thoroughly and bandage to minimize the chance of infection, and then you may still need stitches. Whether or not you need stitches depends on the length, depth and nature of the cut. If it’s deep, more than half an inch long, or is wide enough that it doesn’t come together with light pressure, stitches might be needed. It’s best to see a doctor if you’re concerned.

Stitches are also often needed if the edges of the cut are ragged or the wound has any foreign particles in it. Stitches promote better healing, reduce bleeding and the chance of infection and minimize scars. If you do need stitches, your doctor will let you know how long they will be in and if you need to return to their office to have them removed.

Whether you get stitches or not, it’s always a good idea to watch for prolonged swelling, redness or discharge, all of which could be sign of an infection. If you have signs of infection, visit your doctor as they may need to prescribe topical or oral antibiotics.

When hand nerve surgery is needed

When a cut is particularly deep, you are more likely to have damaged the tendons and nerves in your hand and require hand nerve surgery. While some nerve injuries can heal on their own, for the most severe cuts, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in complex nerve reconstruction can be critical to recovery.

They can repair both the tendons and nerves in the hand. If surgery cannot be completed immediately, they may stitch the wound closed temporarily to minimize additional damage and protect the wound from infection. These types of complex hand nerve surgery is typically done within a week of injury for the best results.

Surgical nerve repair can restore sensation and movement to the hand and fingers and must be done promptly to minimize long-term damage. An orthopedic surgeon will typically try to complete a direct nerve repair if possible. Direct nerve repair reattaches the damaged nerve endings to one another. If that is not possible, a nerve graft replaces the damaged nerve with one from another area in the body.

After surgical repair, your hand will likely be wrapped to protect the wound and it’s natural to experience some swelling for about a week. Icing your hand multiple times for the first several days will reduce swelling and also help to manage pain. Your post-operative care team will provide instructions for icing and to elevate your hand above your heart, which also reduces swelling. They will also provide guidance to care for the wound, including keeping it clean and dry.

You will get specific instructions on when and how to move your hand, depending on the location and the nature of the wound and the best protocol for healing. Physical or occupational therapy is often prescribed and can be vital to long-term recovery.

Do you need an experienced hand doctor? Dr. Gregg Martyak specializes in the treatment of injuries to the hand and upper extremity of both adult and pediatric patients, including hand nerve surgery, microvascular surgery, complex nerve injuries, traumatic reconstruction, arthroscopy and joint replacement.

Exercises that Strengthen Your Hand and Prevent Injuries

As an athlete or active individual, you know how to power your game and keep your body at its fighting best. Workouts and cardio work keep your arms, legs, and torso ready for action – but have you thought about your hands?

Specific hand exercises and routines can help keep your hands strong and healthy. Hand exercise can also benefit people who find that stiffness, pain, or swelling of the hands prevents them from performing daily tasks and enjoying a full life.

How Can I Make My Hands Stronger?

Today, orthopedists and physical therapists have a battery of exercises for the hands and wrists that have proven effective for everyone, whether you’re an athlete or a retiree or somewhere in between. Many of these exercises were first developed for rehabilitation following hand injuries and surgeries.

Below are some of the exercises that can help you strengthen your hands and keep them healthy:

Finger Stretches

Finger stretches are helpful exercises that can help maintain and improve the range of motion of your hands and also help to relieve pain and swelling.

1.    Place your hands palm-down on a flat surface.

2.    Straighten your fingers slowly, while slightly pressing against the flat surface (without applying excessive force).

3.    Once they’re fully straightened, hold this position for 15 seconds.

4.    Release, and repeat three times for each hand. 

Claw Stretches 

Claw stretches maintain and improve the range of motion of your fingers. 

1.    Hold your hands out in front of you with palms facing you.

2.    Bend your fingertips downward within the hand, so each fingertip is touching the base of the finger.

3.    While keeping them bent in this position, pull the fingers back to open the palm. (Now you see why this is called a “claw stretch.”)

4.    Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

5.    Release, and repeat three times for each hand.

Thumb Stretches

The joints of your thumbs are vulnerable to injury. This exercise helps strengthen these joints and the four major tendons that control your thumb. 

1.    Hold your hands out, palms facing you.

2.    Slowly bend the tip of your thumb down toward the base of your little finger.

3.    Hold this position for 30 seconds.

4.    Release, and repeat three times for each thumb. 

Grip Strengthener 

This exercise is designed to strengthen your grip. You can use a tennis ball, rubber ball, or foam ball.

1.    Hold the ball in your palm, and slowly squeeze it as hard as you can.

2.    Hold this position for five seconds.

3.    Release, and repeat five times for each hand. 

You can repeat these hand workouts two or three times a week, and add more exercises as you go. Stop if you feel pain during or after the exercises; never force the tendons or joints beyond their range of motion.

Contact an Orthopedic Doctor in Colorado Springs

Our medical team at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence are experts in sports injuries – and in keeping the body strong to prevent injury in the first place. We offer a full range of therapy, minimally invasive treatments, and bone and joint surgery.

Call us today to make an appointment at our Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050, or request an appointment here. Let us help you continue to enjoy the active, pain-free lifestyle you love!