Dr. Christopher Gayton Offers 5 Safety Tips for Spring Projects

Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained hand and upper extremity specialist J. Christopher Gayton, M.D., offers expert safety guidelines for adults and families to follow while undertaking any project this season. Patients in need of specialized hand care are encouraged to call (843) 353-3460 to be seen by Dr. Gayton at OrthoSC in Conway at 2376 Cypress Circle, Suite 300. 

"Every year, there are multitudes of minor and serious hand, finger and wrist injuries from home projects. There is also potential for shoulder and elbow injuries, especially when working from a higher structure," says Dr. Gayton. "From gardening to roof repair, spring projects can be fun and rewarding to take on yourself, but they also come with some safety risks.

"Minor injuries like wrist sprains as well as serious injuries like fractures, tendon tearing and amputations are all potential risks for those who are starting do-it-yourself jobs inside and outside the home," adds Dr. Gayton. "To help our community avoid hand and upper extremity injuries, I wanted to share a list of guidelines for completing projects safely."

Follow these safety tips to help avoid injuries when taking on a project:

  1. Use the proper tools, properly: Before you start a project, make sure you know how to use and care for your tools. Even hammering improperly can mean fractures in the hand or broken fingers. Sharp objects should be kept away from children. 

    Gardening, landscaping, or completing big projects long-term without the right tools, proper form and gloves can mean blisters, scrapes and even overuse injuries. These include tendinitis (tendonitis) in the shoulder, wrist and elbow as well as nerve irritation. 
  2. Power tools are powerfully dangerous: Proper tool use and tool care are even more important with power tools. Be sure you know exactly how to operate a machine before you use it to reduce your risk of injury. Do not touch drill bits or blades on a power saw, weed whacker or lawn mower before it's turned completely off. 

    Stay alert while operating any motorized device—all are a major hazard and can lead to hand trauma injuries, such as fully or partially torn ligaments and tendons as well as nerve damage that leads to loss of muscle control. Finger amputations that require replantation are also common. Use a push stick when getting items through a power saw, and keep your hand away from a moving blade. 
  3. Keep your worksite clear: Make sure you do your work in a well-lit, clean and dry area with stable surfaces. Any tool you are not using should be placed in a safe location out of your way so you are less likely to trip. Wrist sprains are common with falls, and without tools and objects around the ground or floor, your risk of serious injury with a fall is lower. 
  4. Practice ladder safety: When using a ladder, be sure to find a flat surface. Keep the weight centered and do not overextend yourself beyond your reach. Make sure someone is holding the ladder. If you fall on your hand, elbow or shoulder, you'll likely have a serious fracture or multiple fractures in addition to an elbow or shoulder dislocation and soft tissue damage, like a rotator cuff tear. Many of these injuries would require surgical intervention, such as fracture fixation, wrist fusion, rotator cuff repair and possibly elbow or shoulder joint replacement.
  5. Give yourself a break: Taking breaks and varying your tasks can help prevent these acute injuries, such as strains in your forearm and upper arm muscles, as well as chronic conditions, such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Improper tool use can also cause cuts and more severe tendon injuries in the forearm or hand, leading to an inability to move a finger, thumb or wrist with your own power.

"If you sustain an injury while working with tools or doing heavy lifting and you feel any numbness, intense pain or have any loss of movement in your hand, fingers or arm, seek medical attention," says Dr. Gayton. "Serious injuries to your hand, wrist, elbow, forearm or shoulder should be seen by a specialist as soon as possible. As a hand and upper extremity specialist, I understand the intricacy of the shoulder, arm and hand, so I always work with my patients to offer them the best possible outlook for retaining strength and function." 

Specializing in injuries, conditions and treatments of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder, Dr. Gayton offers the latest care options, including elbow arthroscopy, wrist arthroscopy, shoulder arthroscopy, open and endoscopic carpal tunnel release and total shoulder replacement. He is board-certified in orthopedic surgery by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Dr. Gayton is fellowship-trained in hand and upper extremity surgery through Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He sees patients at OrthoSC in Conway and offers surgical care in Conway at the Conway Medical Center and in Myrtle Beach at the Carolina Bone & Joint Surgery Center.

To learn more about hand, arm and shoulder injuries or to request an appointment with Dr. Gayton, call (843) 353-3460 or request an appointment online.