The Hidden Thanksgiving Danger: Turkey Carving

Nov 24, 2020

If an accident happens, St. Joseph’s/Candler offers certified hand therapy for injuries to the hand

Did you know that 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving? It might be more surprising that 12 percent don’t. But to our main point: Did you also know that cuts from carving the bird are one of the top five most common injuries on this holiday?

It’s true, says Jennifer Brown Owenby, an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation. Every holiday season, Brown Owenby sees patients with hand injuries from cutting. It’s actually common all year round. 

Jennifer Brown Owenby

“I almost always have a patient on my schedule that has a finger laceration from a cutting injury,” Brown Owenby says. “It’s usually the non-dominant hand they cut because that’s usually the holding hand.”

You might not think of a cut or injury to the hand would require therapy, but the hand is a complex body part. It’s made up of 27 bones and numerous muscles, ligaments, tendons and sheaths. Additionally, there are arteries, veins and nerves within the hand that provide blood flow and sensation to the hand and fingers.

Also consider how important our hands are. We use them for writing, typing, texting, eating and so much more.

“Our patients want to have their hands for dexterity, for holding, especially if it’s the dominant hand,” Brown Owenby says. “Say you cut one of your fingers. Not only do you have tendons but you also have structures in there holding the tendon to the bone. If you get scar tissue in there, that thing is not moving.”

Hand therapy evaluates and treats injuries and conditions of the hand, as well as the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm and wrist. Therapists use a number of methods, such as stretching, bending and positioning, to help you return to your highest level of function.

While we certainly don’t hope your Thanksgiving results in the need for hand therapy, Brown Owenby is available to treat a variety of medical conditions such as wounds and scars, amputations, fractures, tendinitis and more. Learn more about hand therapy and how one becomes a certified hand therapist on our website.

Remembering to be safe when using a knife can help you avoid injury altogether.

Cutting and carving safety tips

When carving this year’s Thanksgiving turkey, or any time you are using a knife, consider these safety tips:

  • Never cut towards yourself. One slip of the knife can cause a horrific injury. Your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving toward.
  • Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.
  • Keep all cutting utensils sharp. If your knife is sharp enough, it should not need force in order to carve. A knife too dull to cut properly is still sharp enough to cause any injury.
  • If possible, use an electric knife for the carving. Use kitchen shears to cut the bones and joints of the turkey or other poultry.
  • Do not let children assist with carving, cutting or chopping.
  • Keep your cutting area well-lit and dry. Good lighting will help prevent an accidental cut of the finger and making sure your cutting surface is dry will prevent ingredients from slipping while chopping.
  • Keep your knife handles dry. A wet handle can prove slippery and cause your hand to slip down onto the blade.
  • Don’t put knives in dishwater where they are not easily seen.

Should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on its own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. Seek medical help if:

  • Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes.
  • You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status.
  • You are unable to thoroughly cleanse the wound by rinsing with mild soap and plenty of clean water.
  • You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip.
  • You do not have full range of motion in the hand or finger.

When to seek hand therapy

Your physician – often your primary care doctor or an orthopedic surgeon – may recommend hand therapy to help gain strength and function of the hand following trauma, or in other situations such as a lingering condition or surgery. Hand therapists can also treat the wrist, forearm or elbow. A physician’s referral is required for hand therapy at St. Joseph’s/Candler, so if you have a new or lingering hand condition talk to your doctor today.

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