Avoid injury when preparing food--be a vigilant protector of delicate finger and wrist joints.
Avoid hand injuries in the kitchen – Top Ten Tips
by Janet Penaligon
A regular cooking or baking session can be frustrating and downright painful when injury or arthritis limits normal lifting, turning and twisting movements necessary to prepare a meal.
Here are some ways I’ve discovered to take charge in the kitchen without creating pain or strain.
1. Consider yourself a management specialist when you enter the kitchen. Your first priority is to protect your (fill in the blank). This could be your wrist, if it’s been sprained, your finger(s) if it’s been broken, your joints if they’re more fragile than they used to be. You will be the advocate for those delicate parts, and adjust your actions where necessary.
2. Be aware of the most common enemies: twisting, prying, the pinching motion of thumb to forefinger, and any wrenching movement that torques the joints of finger, wrist, forearm or tendons.
3. Use both hands. If you’re taking a large skillet out of the cupboard, or anything that’s hefty, be sure your feet are balanced under you and avoid lifting with your back. Be especially cautious when taking food out of the microwave. Protect your hands with hot pad mittens, which will not slip, and if your microwave is high, lower it to a safer level for you. If you can’t do that, use a very sturdy step stool (not ladder) as a last resort.
4. Divide and conquer. Unstack before trying to lift two or six or eight pots or plates. If what you need is at the bottom of stacked pots, for example, remove them one at a time to lighten the load. A few extra moments of preparation may save you from a new sprain or additional pain.
5. “Choke up” on weighty items. Grasping the skillet at the end of the handle closest to the bowl of the skillet will make it easier to lift – provided you’re lifting a cold skillet, of course or if you’re lifting a heavy knife or other sharp object, don’t get too close.
6. Change the procedure if it hurts. Ziplock bags are handy, and the newer bags with the built in zipper tag are hand-friendly, but beware! The old, standard Zip-locks may be priced right at Sam’s Club and Costco, but if you have arthritis or sprained thumb issues that give you trouble with the pinching action (squeezing the zip line of the plastic bag between your thum and pointer finger), they are not your friend. With the tag-less Ziplock bags, I’ve found success (and spared myself pain) by laying the bag on the counter (won’t work for liquids but does work for food such as left-over broccoli or cooked rice, for example). With the zip line in contact with the counter, I use the flat of my hand, if the bag isn’t too full, or my knuckles, and starting at the edge, pinch it closed between my knuckles and the counter. It closes without the potentially painful pinching action.
7. Get a good jar opener. Not one of those cheap plastic stick-ons, but a quality opener that installs with screws so it can handle the torque of a tight lid. Yes, of course I recommend the UN-SKRU. Heck, we sell it, and know it works great, and it doesn’t add to the clutter in your kitchen drawer because it’s under the cabinet, and it opens all sizes of lids easily.
If you’re in a kitchen without it, though, avoid trying to twist lids open with your bare hands. Summon help, if you can. It’s that important! Avoid knife-banging and other activity that can only cause injury. If nothing else, a piece of no-slip Dicem or tacky fabric or towel can help, but go slowly and stop if you feel pain.
8. Get an electric can opener. It’s just too hard on fingers, wrists, and the twisting motion taxes the radius and ulna, the bones of the forearm. Another option is to shop for the growing number of products–soups, vegetables, pet foods — that feature tab-top cans.
9. Snuggle up and get better leverage. For certain opening tasks, moving closer to the object you wish to open gives you better grip and leverage. For example, new refrigerators have a powerful suction grip to keep the cold air inside. Try this two different ways and you’ll see. If you stand three feet away from the refrigerator door and open it, then try standing just one foot away from the door and open it, you’ll see the difference. Anything that avoids strain will help protect you.
10. Don’t forget the floor. Your poor hands will take a beating if you fall because you’ll use your hands to block any falls. Be sure it’s clear of spills, any debris that could be slippery, or any cat, dog or grandchildren’s toys that could make you fall.
I developed these management methods. What have you descovered or refined? Have you developed clever management tips for kitchen safety? We’d love to hear from you. What’s your tip for us today? Click on “comment” below and share it with us.