Tendon injuries, unfortunately, are fairly common, especially this time of year. Cutting through a finger tendon while slicing summer melons or fall pumpkins happens often.
Flexor tendon and extensor tendon injuries
Tendons in the palm-side of the hand are called flexor tendons. Flexor tendons bend or flex the finger. Tendons on the back of your hand are extensor tendons. Extensor tendons straighten or extend your fingers. Both look like white ribbons that connect a muscle to the joint that it moves.
Flexor tendons are particularly difficult to fix. A surgeon will have to sew the tendon back together in the operating room. Then there are highly specialized protocols that require a splint and very specific exercises.
Flexor tendons are tricky because it takes too much force to move them and the surgical repair often pulls apart. Not moving the tendon causes the scar tissue to attach the tendon to other tendons, bone, and skin in the area. The consequence is that the tendon doesn’t move.
The tendon doesn’t work if the repair ruptures and it doesn’t work if the tendon scars down, which is why hand therapists do a very specialized protocol. The protocol requires passively moving the finger or fingers with your other hand, then using your extensor tendons to straighten the finger actively, or with its own muscle power. This protocol, along with some tweaking by an experienced hand therapist can return your finger or fingers to normal function. However, be aware that tendons weaken for 18-21 days, then gain strength, so this protocol goes on for about 12 weeks.
Avoiding cutting your hand is always the best solution, but accidents happen. There are a few tips to learn about avoiding tendon injuries this summer.
For melons, cut the ends off so it doesn’t roll while you slice the rind off. Sharper knives do a safer job at cutting, but always cut away from you.
If you happen to injure a tendon or experience any upper extremity injuries this summer, know that the experts at LB Hand Therapy are here to help. Schedule an appointment today on our website.