Injuries that happen over time
When you have completed your work, do you feel tingling or numbness in your hands from holding vibration tools or machines?
Do you get sore hands and wrists from tightening bolts many times a day?
Do you have sore hands when cooking meals or using tools at home?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you may have Raynaud's syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome or tenosynovitis.
Raynaud's syndrome or "white finger" is caused by the vibrations your hands and fingers are subjected to when you work with electric or pneumatic tools. The skin, muscles and other tissues cannot get needed oxygen because of damage to the blood vessels of the hand. The result is a loss of sensation and control; there may be blanching and numbness of the affected areas and you may notice a decreased sensitivity to heat, cold and pain.
All of these problems can seriously interfere with your regular work and recreational activities. If you operate a chain saw, air hammer, air chisel, jack hammer or any other vibration tool, you must be extremely careful.
A few prevention tips
· Eliminate or reduce vibrations by using anti-vibration mounting or other engineering measures.
· Regular maintenance of your tools is very important because they will vibrate less when in good operating condition.
· Find ways to do the job using a different tool or by changing your grip, wrist position or hand movement. Think about how to perform each movement in the simplest way possible and vary tasks to rest your hands.
· Keep hands warm and dry. Cold causes blood vessels to contract, reducing the amount of oxygen carried to the hands by the blood.
· If you smoke, try to stop. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, decreasing the oxygen supply to the tissues of your hands.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome results from pinching of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. This syndrome is often found in people who work with their wrist bent or twisted, especially when using force. Assemblers, textile workers, computer keyboard users, painters and food processing workers are among those most affected.
The initial symptoms are numbness, tingling, burning, pain and loss of strength. Symptoms are often more acute at night and felt on only one side of the hand, the side of the index finger and thumb.
Tenosynovitis (tendinitis, synovitis, bursitis, trigger finger, de Quervain's disease) is an inflammation of the tendons and tendon-muscle attachments. It is caused by overuse of the hand and arm muscles, especially during rapid, forceful and repetitive movements and excessive arm extension.
The areas of the hand where pain occurs are generally the base of the palm, the palm side of the fingers, the back of the wrist, and the side of the wrist near the palm.
A few prevention tips
· Be aware of the positions and movements of your hands and wrists as you work. Try to alternate or change your movements to reduce repetition and strain.
· Rotate functions and vary tasks.
· Plan the work and work area to suit yourself rather than the machine.
· Tools should be light and balanced, and be the right size for you.
· Tool handles should be bent so that the wrist stays in a comfortable, natural position.
· Whenever possible, work with your forearms close to your body and supported.
· Doctors may advise wrist supports to prevent twisting injuries.
Source: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
Call 1 866 386-9624