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hand tool injuries and injury prevention

Power Saws to Paint Brushes: Hand Tool Injuries & Prevention Tips

by Justin Schvach, MOT, OTR/L1 Comment

Co-Author: Werokina Noyszewski, OTS

Pity the tool! Tough as nails, even Mr. T could learn a thing or two about hand tool injuries. As the weather turns for the better, home renovations continue to be top of mind for many folks. From endless hours watching home renovation television shows, to scrolling through your favorite social networks for inspiration, we all have the desire for DIY projects to improve our space. No matter what your artisan experience is, our expert Hand Therapists have provided tips to keep you safe while working with your hands.

Working with hand tools can be hazardous, especially when not properly trained. When hand tools are misused, the opportunity for injury increases. Hand injuries may result in a loss of motion, grip, dexterity and inability to complete simple tasks.

Tool Safety Tips1:

1. Utilize the user’s guide and safety instructions when using a new tool.
2. Choose the right tool for the job, and inspect the tool to ensure it is in good condition.
3. Consider general protective equipment such as appropriate shoes, eyewear, gloves, harness, and head/hearing protection.
4. Clear workspace of clutter and have adequate lighting.
5. Store tools appropriately when not in use.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Common Hand Injuries:

Using the same tool for multiple hours a day can irritate muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments. Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers are all tools that involve repetitive motion. From gripping and fastening, to turning and bending, our hands can get pretty beaten up by the end of the day.

  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (Inflammation of the thumb’s tendons)
    • A common injury that is a result of improper tool use is known as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. De Quervain’s is inflammation of the thumb’s tendons due to chronic overuse of the wrist. If you have this condition, you are likely to feel pain when turning your wrist, making a fist, or attempting to grasp objects.2 The pain is typically localized at the base of the thumb where it meets the wrist.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • This condition occurs when one of the major nerves in the hand, the median nerve, is being compressed as it runs through the wrist. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel include pain at the wrist, numbness at the fingers, and/or tingling in the arm.3
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
    • This painful injury occurs from inflammation at the outside of the elbow joint. The muscles in the elbow have small tears and are overloaded due to repetitive wrist and arm movements.4

Injuries like these may require ice, heat, and rest. It is also recommended to see a hand specialist about other treatment options including conservative management, custom splinting, steroid injections, or the possibility of surgery.

Amputations, Lacerations and Fractures:

More serious acute injuries, such as amputations, lacerations and fractures, can also occur when using hand tools. Traumatic injuries such as these will often require immediate medical attention. Once the acute injury has been addressed, you may be referred to a hand specialist to help regain motion, improve function and reduce pain.

How Do I Prevent an Injury?

  • Do not use excessive pressure or force on the tools
  • Take frequent breaks and stretch
  • Remove all jewelry
  • Always cut away from your body
  • Take your time and don’t rush
  • Maintain good posture

What Does Good Posture Look Like?

  • Keep your head level and stand up tall
  • Push shoulders back and keep elbows close to your body
  • Have feet shoulder-width apart
  • Position weight to the balls of your feet
  • When sitting, make sure your back and legs are fully supported

Keep Home Renovations Fun!

Many hand tool injuries are avoidable. It is essential at all times to follow safety tips and precautions when working with hand tools. Call or visit our website to schedule an appointment with one of our Occupational/Hand Therapists! We would love to help you prevent accidents and stay healthy!

Find a Hand Therapist Near You

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. Cooper, B. (2020, November 29). Safety when using hand tools. The Review Hunt.
2. Howell, E. R. (2012). Conservative care of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis/ tendinopathy in a warehouse worker and recreational cyclist: a case report. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 56(2), 121–127.
3. ERICKSON, M., LAWRENCE, M., STEGINK JANSEN, C. W., COKER, D., AMADIO, P., & CLEARY, C. (2019). Hand Pain and Sensory Deficits: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 49(5), CPG1-CPG60.
4. RSI and tool usage. (2021). Croner-i.
5. Mitchelson, A., & Maender, C. (2020, November 27). Hand Amputation. STATPEARLS.

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About the Author:
Justin Schvach, MOT, OTR/L, serves as the Clinic Manager and Occupational Therapist/Hand Therapist at the West Chicago Dupage facility while providing work comp services at various locations. He has over 12 years of experience treating in the hand therapy setting. Justin's specialties include upper extremity, work conditioning, performing FCEs, Post Offer employment testing, and he is Graston certified for the upper extremity.

1 Comment

  1. Stan Ebersohl

    THese are all good suggestions for use of hand tools. one other that was not listed should be to wear proper shoes. You would be surprised how a proper fitting shoe can assist when one is at a work bench using hand tools.

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