Managing after a Hand or Wrist injury

Following an injury to your hand or wrist, you may require your arm to have a plaster cast or splint on. This will impact on some day to day activities that you are able to do. Allowing yourself additional time to do activities and taking things steady will help to prevent further injury.

Washing yourself If you have a plaster cast on, you should try not to get it wet. If you are taking a shower or a bath, we recommend that you cover it completely in a plastic bag, in order to protect from any water. Wrap the bag around your arm over the cast or splint, and use tape to secure it to your skin. Sellotape is not suitable for this, and you are best to buy surgical tape from a chemist or supermarket, or from Amazon. Use a sponge or extending sponge to wash the areas you cannot reach because of your injury.

Alternatively, you can invest in a waterproof cast protector – there are many on the market, and this one looks like a suitable type, as it is not too expensive, and reusable.

Caring for your plaster or splint It is important to look after your cast. Keep it clean and avoid getting it wet. Casts are often a temporary measure and will not necessarily be in place for a significant period of time.

Please contact the plaster room or the hand service if your cast:

  • Becomes wet and soggy
  • Begins to rub and cause significant injury to the skin
  • Becomes loose
  • If there is any discharge or foul-smelling odour coming from underneath the cast

Dressing yourself It is usually easier to put the injured arm into any clothing first, and then worry about the uninjured side. Most patients suggest wearing looser clothing and avoiding fasteners or belts to make it easier to dress. Whilst seated, it often helps to rest the injured arm on a pillow on your knees. This means that you can take your arm out of a sling (if you are using one) and dress this arm whilst keeping it comfortable on the pillow. Slip on shoes will avoid the risk of tripping over badly tied laces, but you can buy shoe fasteners if you need them.

Kitchen tasks The kitchen can become a risky place if you have an injured hand or arm. Take your time, and try not to over-reach for things. It is a good idea to prepare food and store it in the freezer if you are coming in for an operation, but you may have no warning of this. Microwave meals are fairly easy to prepare with one hand, and these can be useful in the early stages of your rehabilitation.

Try to avoid lifting anything heavy. Fill the kettle only as high as you need to so that it is lighter. Use the people around you to help out if you are not managing.

Getting on and off furniture
Getting out of a chair can be tricky when your arm is injured. Try to sit in a high chair to make this easier. When you are getting up, lean forward and push with your leg muscles rather than putting weight through your injured arm. Generally, in the first few days after an injury, it is a good idea to keep the hand elevated above shoulder height. This is difficult to do when you are sitting, but relatively easy when lying out on a sofa – rest your injured arm up on cushions and this will help swelling go down simply by using gravity.

Whilst in bed, place your injured arm on additional pillows or cushions to elevate it. To get out of bed, roll onto your uninjured side and use your uninjured arm to help push yourself up. It will be easier to get out of bed on the side of the uninjured arm.

Driving
You should not drive after hand surgery until you are fit to do so. It takes time to recover from the effects of the anaesthetic. Some of the painkilling medication you will be prescribed will affect your fitness to drive. If your hand or wrist are painful or stiff you may not be able to drive safely. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit to drive in terms of the DVLA guidance in respect of your hand surgery and in respect of any other medical condition that you may suffer from. There is detailed information on the DVLA website about fitness to drive and you should refer to that before driving. If you are in any doubt, consult your surgeon or GP and also your insurance company. Different motor insurers have different policies about medical fitness to drive and you should check you are insured before driving.

© Fife Hand Service 2020

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