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First Aid for Hand Injuries

hand injuries

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At one time or another, everyone will experience hand injuries that cause painful swelling. Daily body movements typically do not cause problems, but it is not surprising that symptoms develop from the everyday wear and tear of our hands.

Hand injuries commonly occur during sports or recreational activities. They also occur when doing work and home-related tasks, accidental falls, and fistfights. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, about 143,000 hand-related injuries were recorded in 2015. This data suggests a loss of an average of five working days from hand injuries in the workplace alone.


Hand Injury Causes

The risk of hand injuries is much higher in contact sports and high-speed sports. For contact sports, the most common are basketball, wrestling, football, soccer. In comparison, high-speed sports include biking, snowboarding, and skateboarding. Hand injuries also occur in weight-bearing sports such as weightlifting and gymnastics. Sports that use hand equipment also increase the risk of injuries, such as hockey sticks, ski poles, and lacrosse sticks.

In children, most hand injuries also occur during playtime or from accidental sports. Any child injury that occurs at the end or longboard near the joint needs to be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

Most minor hand injuries typically heal on their own. First aid treatment is all that is needed to relieve symptoms.


First Aid for Hand Injury

The recommended treatment for acute hand injuries is the PRICE principle. PRICE is a first aid acronym that stands for protection, rest, ice, and elevation.

The goal of the PRICE treatment is to reduce hand pain and swelling and lay the foundation for good rehabilitation (if necessary).



Remove the person from the scene to protect against further injury. It is important to remove the person from any further risk in the first 48 hours after the injury occurs.



The person should not continue with any activity. These include sports, work, or at-home activities following a hand injury.



Apply cold compress or ice to relieve pain. The recommended time for applying ice is 20 minutes every other hour for a day or two to achieve a good effect.

There is an available ice compress in the market. But the best solution is often found at home – a plastic bag or cloth with crushed ice and some water. Make sure to put a damp towel between the ice and the skin.



After a hand injury, the most important thing to do is to apply a pressure bandage. A pressure bandage, otherwise known as a compression bandage, helps minimise swelling. It will eventually decrease stiffness.

When applying a bandage, use a small elastic bandage just enough for this type of injury. Use it for the first two to three days after the injury.



Reduce swelling by keeping the hand elevated, preferably above the heart level. Elevate the injury for the first few hours and when possible, keep it in the same position for the first 24 hours. While elevated, compression should be maintained around the injury to keep internal bleeding and swelling to a minimum.

If in doubt, get an opinion from your doctor and seek immediate medical attention. Do not delay getting help as it can result in your injuries becoming worse.

If you experience symptoms of severe pain, bleeding, numbness, loss of motion or strength, amputation, or deformities, head straight to the nearest emergency room for medical attention.



The more quickly a hand injury is addressed and treated, the more chance of a positive outcome. But that is only possible if you know what steps to take.

First Aid Courses Tasmania is committed to keeping your hands safe and working. Enrol in a First Aid course and learn how to take care of a hand injury.

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