Winter Injuries: Dr. Faruqui’s No. 1 Piece of Advice
It's natural to brace yourself when you slip, so winter weather can be especially cruel on the hands. Whether it's an icy sidewalk, a floor that's wet from melting snow brought in on shoes, or a ski slope, the hand hazards are everywhere in the cold months. The force of a fall can injure any of the small bones in your hands, wrist, or fingers.
You might not even know it immediately. "For injuries to the finger, people tend to dismiss it, thinking they just jammed it. But personally, a lot of times when I see jammed fingers two or three weeks out, often times, they broke it and didn't realize it," says Safi Faruqui DO a hand surgery specialist with the TriHealth Orthopedic and Sports Institute. He sees every hand or wrist injury imaginable, especially during the icy winter months.
"One that's more seasonal is skier's thumb, where you're going down the slope and your pole plants but you keep going," he says.
The hand has nearly 30 bones and dozens of muscles and tendons, so there are plenty of things to injure. Because of this body part's complexity, it's difficult to know the severity of a hand injury simply by the pain level. Immobilize your injury and visit the doctor, Dr. Faruqui says. Don't wait to seek care. While it may not warrant an emergency department visit, you should get an X-ray for these types of injuries sooner rather than later, especially if you experience swelling and intense pain.
What's the Problem with Waiting?
When you break bones your body tries to heal the injury right away, so it's not a question of whether a finger fracture, for example, will heal; it's the position it heals in that causes the problem, Dr. Faruqui says.
If someone slips, falls and has a bad injury within one of the joints of their finger, for instance, even if a specialist sees it two or three weeks later, the body has already tried to heal it in the bad position. "That make it not only harder to fix, but the outcome goes down," he points out.
"The earlier I see those injuries, the better chance we have of giving you as good of an outcome as possible."