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Protecting Hands and Preventing Mishaps: Insights from an Occupational Therapist on Orthopedic Injuries During Holiday Cooking

Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings, delicious feasts, and cherished traditions. However, as the holiday season approaches, it's essential to keep safety in mind, even in the kitchen. Orthopedic injuries related to kitchen accidents are more common than you might think. In this article, we've sourced some preventative measures and tips from our hand therapy team members to give you a hand this holiday season.

Common Kitchen Injuries:

In the kitchen, lacerations to tenons from knife accidents and mishaps while washing dishes are unfortunately all too common. Although stovetop burns are less frequent, they can also pose a risk to hand health.

The OT Approach to Hand Therapy:

Occupational therapists (OT) specializing in hand therapy understand that each person's needs are unique. They don't just focus on your hand or upper extremities but see you as a complete individual. OTs consider how you use your hands at work, in sports, while playing with your loved ones, and during your daily routine. They examine your pain, joint motion limitations, strength, sensation, coordination, and ergonomic positions. Their goal is to provide solutions for compensation and guide you toward regaining your hand function.

April Hibbeler, MS, OTR/L
April Hibbeler, MS, OTR/L

Safety Tips for Holiday Food Preparation:

As you prepare Thanksgiving meals, follow these safety tips to protect your hands:

  • Start with clean, dry hands, and keep a towel nearby for quick drying.
  • Always use a sharp knife to reduce the risk of slips.
  • Use a fork to stabilize the meat rather than your fingers.
  • Cut away from your body, never towards it.
  • Utilize a cutting board rather than holding items in your hand.
  • When using a food processor, ensure it's unplugged until all ingredients are in the bowl.
  • Adaptive Tools for Hand Impairments:
    • For those with hand impairments, there are specialized tools to enhance safety and ease in the kitchen:
      • Cutting boards with suction feet and aluminum nails to secure food.
      • Rocker knives are designed for one-handed cutting.
      • Cut-resistant gloves that offer protection against accidental cuts.

Dishwashing Safety:

Even dishwashing can pose a risk to your hands. To prevent accidents while handling breakable items, lay a hand towel at the bottom of the sink before washing glasses and fragile dishes to reduce the risk of breakage.

This Thanksgiving, as you gather with loved ones to share in the joy of the season, remember to prioritize the safety of your hands in the kitchen. By implementing these guidelines and using adaptive tools, you can minimize the risk of injuries and ensure that your hands remain safe during the holiday season and beyond. Stay safe, enjoy your time in the kitchen, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you to April Hibbeler, MS, OTR/L fromOrthoCarolina Huntersville Physical and Hand Therapy for providing this blog information!

This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you are seeking specific orthopedic advice or assistance, please consult with your OrthoCarolina physician or locate one in your area through OrthoCarolina’s website at

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