Tips for Protecting the Hands this Thanksgiving

by Rose McAndrew | Leave a Comment

For many, Thanksgiving dinner is the largest and most complicated meal produced all year.

Although I’ve been enjoying the spoils of the Thanksgiving meal for years, only recently have I been hosting the holiday for my family. This has helped me realize how physically challenging and laborious it is to cook a meal of this proportion. As a Certified Hand Therapist and aspiring home cook, I wanted to pass on a few tips for protecting our hands during this time of year.

Cooking Tool Tips

From peeling potatoes to chopping vegetables, the proper kitchen tools are essential in maintaining good hand health when preparing a meal like Thanksgiving dinner.

hand safety tips for thanksgiving

For starters, it is important to make sure your knives are as sharp as possible around one to two weeks prior to the holiday. Dull knives require more force to achieve a slice, increasing stress throughout the joints in the hands. Several grocery stores offer knife sharpening in the meat department as a courtesy to their guests, requiring a few days turn-around. A home honer is also useful, with a few passes on the knife daily to maintain sharpness being recommended (I use mine weekly).

The right potato peeler can also reduce stress on the hand. The larger the handle, the less grip force required to use the tool. Increased grip force can adversely affect the joints of the hand, while repeated gripping can cause tennis elbow. Look for kitchen tools that have handles with large diameters.

The same principle applies with rubber scrapers, spatulas and wooden spoons. The larger the diameter of the handle, the easier it is on your body. Since wooden spoon handles tend to come in one size (narrow), wrapping electrical tape around the held section can provide more diameter with minimal cost.

Lifting Tips

A large, beautifully bronzed turkey is the focal point of the Thanksgiving meal and the compliments from family and friends make any home cook proud. Getting the bird from the grocery store to the family table, however, requires some heft and maneuvering.

protecting hands for thanksgivingEmploying proper lifting techniques will help protect against arm injury. When lifting the frozen (or fresh) bird, use two hands to distribute the weight, position yourself as closely to the bird as possible and bend at the knees (vs. back) if you need to move the turkey from a low position such as the oven or the freezer.

It is also important to note that the amount of food prepared on Thanksgiving Day means that the weight of groceries increases leading up to the holiday. Distributing weight among multiple bags is a better idea than trying to carry one giant bag, as it minimizes the risk of injury. This may mean making multiple trips to move groceries from car to home, but will help protect against over usage in the hands.

First Aid Tips

Even when we’re cautious and conscientious of protecting ourselves in the kitchen, accidents do happen. Although minor injuries need to be addressed immediately, they do not need to interfere with completing the meal.

Fingertip burns, for example, should be run under cool (not cold) water for 10-15 minutes. You can also cover the burned area with a bandage so you can continue with meal preparation 1.  No ointment is needed and despite what my grandmother told me, margarine will make the injury worse. Similarly, minor cuts should be flushed under running water (for less time) and covered with a sterile bandage. Taking ibuprofen as needed can help with swelling and discomfort for these injuries, best it is always best to talk to your physician before taking medicine.

Ask for Help

Lastly, ask for and accept help where and when needed. If someone offers to bring something, open the wine, carve the turkey (although this is highly personal) take him or her up on the offer! The holidays are fast approaching and should be an exciting and enjoyable time for everyone, including the cook.

If you end up feeling aches and pains from the meal prep in the days following Thanksgiving, make sure to contact your nearest Athletico location to schedule a complimentary injury screening.

Complimentary Injury Screen

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Burns: First Aid.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation, 10 July 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-burns/basics/ART-20056649>.
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