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As travel and many activities outside the home have decreased in the wake of COVID-19, many area residents are spending more time at home and engaging in do-it-yourself projects, which can come with their own set of risks, most commonly hand, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries. From DIY home décor to home renovation, routine repairs and landscaping, fellowship-trained hand surgeon Dr. Joshua Ratner and his team at The Hand & Upper Extremity Center of Georgia offer expert safety guidelines for adults and families to follow while undertaking any project this fall. Patients in need of specialized bone, joint and muscle care are encouraged to call (404) 255-0226 to schedule a safe appointment in Atlanta at 980 Johnson Ferry Road NE, Suite 1020; in Alpharetta at 3400A Old Milton Parkway, Suite 350; or in Cumming at 2000 Howard Farm Drive, Suite 310. Telemedicine appointments are also available.  

"Every year, minor and serious hand, wrist, shoulder and elbow injuries associated with DIY projects are common — this year, the risk may be higher with more people taking on projects while they spend more time at home during COVID-19," says Dr. Ratner. "From home improvement to crafty décor, fall projects can be fun and rewarding to accomplish on your own, but they also come with some safety risks, so my colleagues and I wanted to share some go-to tips for completing projects safely."

Follow these safety tips from The Hand & Upper Extremity Center of Georgia to help avoid injuries when taking on a project:

  • Use the proper tools — properly: Ensure you have the correct tools for your project and the knowledge of to use them safely before starting any project. Even hammering using the improper technique can lead to broken fingers. Additionally, deep cuts and even nerve injuries are common with scissors, craft knives and other small tools. Keep sharp objects away from children.
  • Use extreme caution with power tools: From drills and saws to sewing machines, lawn mowers and weed whackers, be sure you know exactly how to operate a machine before you use it. To avoid a variety of traumatic bone, joint and muscle injuries, make sure your machine is stable and holding your complete focus, and do not put your hand or arm near drill bits, moving blades or needles before a machine is turned completely off.
  • Wear the right equipment and attire: Be sure to have on eye protection, a dust mask and/or gloves as needed. Also, dress appropriately (no dangling jewelry, loose sleeves or baggy clothes that may trip you or get caught). If you have long hair, wear it up and out of the way. Shorts, bare feet and sandals are also ill-advised for most tasks, so be careful with legwear and footwear.
  • Use a well-lit, clean, dry and uncluttered working area with stable surfaces: You should also place any tool not being used in a safe location to help you avoid tripping injuries, like bruises, strains and wrist and ankle sprains.
  • Practice proper ladder safety: To avoid fall-related injuries, such as fractures, shoulder or elbow dislocations, rotator cuff tears or more severe injuries, be sure to place ladders on a flat surface. Keep the weight centered and do not overextend to reach any item. Also, make sure someone is holding the ladder.
  • Take plenty of breaks and vary your tasks: Not overworking certain muscle groups and joints can help prevent acute injuries, such as strains in your back, forearm and upper arm muscles, as well as chronic injuries, such as shoulder tendonitis (tendinitis) or elbow conditions, like cubital tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Listen to your body, especially if heavy lifting is involved.

"If you experience any numbness, pain or have loss of movement in on of your extremities after working with tools or doing heavy lifting for a project, seek medical attention," says Dr. Ratner. "If you have a serious injury, you should consult with a specialist as soon as possible."

Dr. Ratner is a fellowship-trained upper extremity surgeon specializing in the elbow, hand and wrist. He is certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and holds a Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Ratner is available to see patients at the practice’s offices located in Atlanta, Alpharetta and Cumming.

To learn more about orthopedic safety or to schedule a safe appointment with Dr. Ratner or one of the many experts at The Hand & Upper Extremity Center of Georgia, call (404) 255-0226.