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With travel as well as most activities outside the home reduced with COVID-19, many have refocused their energies on do-it-yourself projects, which can come with their own set of risks, most commonly hand, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries. From crafting to home improvement and everything in between, fellowship-trained upper extremity surgeon Dr. Robert Allaire at Casper Orthopedics offers expert safety guidelines for area residents to follow while undertaking any project this fall. Patients in need of specialized bone, joint and muscle care are encouraged to call (307) 265-7205 to schedule a safe in-office appointment. Telehealth visits are also available, and walk-ins are welcome at the practice’s OrthoCare Now urgent orthopedic clinic at 4140 Centennial Hills Blvd.

"There are a number of minor and serious wrist, elbow, hand and shoulder injuries from home improvement projects and even crafts," says Dr. Allaire. "Fall projects like landscaping and even creating décor can be fun and rewarding to accomplish on your own, but these activities do come with safety risks, so my colleagues and I wanted to share some guidance for completing projects safely."

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

  • Make sure you have the right tools and know how to use them before starting a project. Even improperly using a hammer can mean broken fingers. Additionally, deep cuts and even nerve injuries are common with scissors, craft knives and other small tools. Always keep children away from sharp objects.
  • If using power tools or machines, use extra caution. Everything from drills and power saws to sewing machines, lawn mowers and weed whackers require significant operation knowledge before use. To avoid a variety of traumatic injuries, make sure your machine is stable while you are using it and keep your focus on how you're using it. Do not put your hand or arm near any drill bits, blades or needles before a machine is turned completely off.
  • Dress appropriately for the task at hand. You may need to wear eye protection, a dust mask and/or gloves as part of your attire, depending on the job. For any task, proper attire will also mean what not to wear, including dangling jewelry, shorts, sandals or loose sleeves or baggy clothes that may snag, trip you or get caught. If you have long hair, wear it up and out of the way.
  • Keep your working space clean and clear. Make sure your workspace is also well-lit and dry area. Your working surfaces should also be stable. Place any tool you are not using in a safe location to help you avoid tripping injuries, like bruises, strains and sprains.
  • When using a ladder, make sure it is sturdy and on a flat surface. To avoid fall-related injuries, such as fractures, shoulder or elbow dislocations, rotator cuff tears or more severe injuries, keep the weight centered and do not overextend to reach for something. Also, have someone hold the ladder for additional safety.
  • Take breaks and vary your tasks. Being mindful of when you're straining and choosing to rest or do a different task can help prevent acute injuries, such as strains in your back, forearm and upper arm muscles, as well as chronic injuries, such as shoulder tendinitis or elbow conditions, like cubital tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow.

"If you're injured while using tools, doing heavy lifting or after a mishap when completing a project and you feel any numbness, pain or loss of movement in your arm or other extremities, seek immediate medical attention," says Dr. Allaire. "If you have sustained a serious injury, you should consult with a specialist as soon as possible."

As a board-certified, fellowship-trained upper extremity surgeon, Dr. Allaire specializes in providing treatment for elbow, hand, wrist and shoulder disorders as well as trauma and fracture care. He is available to see patients at the practice’s office in Casper.

To learn more about orthopedic safety or to schedule a safe appointment with Dr. Allaire or one of the many experts at Casper Orthopedics, call (307) 265-7205.