2 Medical Procedures You Can Do at Home—and Avoid the ER

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH These two medical techniques are among the most popular I’ve ever shared here. They’re little-known but easy to master, and they often solve a couple of daunting, frustrating problems. Since I published them over two years ago, readers have told me again and again that these tips have allowed them to avoid expensive doctor visits. So I thought they were worth recapping, to make sure you have them in your back pocket. They could save you time, money, and lots and lots of frustration. […]

By | July 28th, 2015|General|3 Comments

You Can’t Straighten Your Finger. Do You Know What’s Wrong?

In this picture, tendons are running on top of the fingers except for the little finger, which shows the bone and the ligaments (much smaller and on the sides of the joints). by James Hubbard, MD, MPH My mother used to love to tell the story about when I was an infant and I kept complaining that my heel was hurting. She looked and looked but couldn’t find anything wrong. Finally she figured out I was talking about my hip, not my heel. It’s important to know your anatomy when you’re dealing with an injury. I’m guessing you know the difference between your hip and your heel, but what about a ligament versus a tendon? If you understand what lies beneath the skin, not only will you have a better idea of what’s going on—and be able to communicate that to others—but you’ll also have a better idea of how to treat it. Also, if a computer or book—Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid :-)—is handy, you’ll be able to go right to the information needed. Here are some definitions from my Living Ready book: […]

By | January 27th, 2014|Bones|4 Comments

Video: How to Make a Finger Splint

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Okay, class. In recent posts, I’ve written about finger injuries and how to treat them. In case you weren’t quite able to grasp :-) how to make the different finger splints, I’ve made you a video. My homemade splints may not be the prettiest, but they should be as effective as any until you can get definitive medical treatment. Whether the splint’s metal, wood, or the uninjured finger next to the injured one (a buddy splint), the objective is the same: keep the injured area stable until it heals. In the video I show how I’d make a finger splint for the following: […]

By | March 22nd, 2012|Bones, Videos|6 Comments

What Injury’s Name Is French for Buttonhole?

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Your hand slips and a fingertip bangs head-on against a board. Your finger’s middle joint bows up like a ready-to-pounce cat’s back. You straighten it with your other hand, but it springs right back into pouncing mode. You are now the probably-not-so-proud owner of a boutonniere deformity. The only chance it has ever to fully function again is to get proper treatment with a specific type of splinting. Boutonniere is French for “buttonhole.” If you can’t remember boutonniere, I Googled “buttonhole injury” and came up with links about boutonniere deformity. Just remember to type “injury” after buttonhole. Otherwise, you come up with a lot of links for … buttonholes. So why would anyone name an injury that makes a finger look like an A-frame ski chalet a “boutonniere deformity”? […]

By | March 20th, 2012|Bones|8 Comments

What to Do for a Droopy Digit

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You hit your finger and now the tip won’t straighten back out. You can straighten it using your other hand, but when you let go, the tip just droops back again like it’s no longer a part of you. That’s why some people call this injury a “drop finger.” Others call it a mallet, hammer, or baseball finger because something like one of those things hits your fingertip while the finger is in an outstretched, pointed position. This involuntarily flexes the fingertip joint and injures the tendon. The same thing happens when the tip of your outstretched finger hits something hard and head-on. Sometimes the tendon can even be pulled from its attachment to the bone. The reason I bring this up is you have to treat a mallet finger just right  if you ever want all your fingers to point in the same direction again. […]

By | March 15th, 2012|Bones|21 Comments

(Do) Pull My Finger: How to Treat a Dislocated Digit

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You’re picking up debris and swing your hand around. A finger hits a board, hard. Ouch. You look at your finger and it’s crooked. Not a little. A lot. You can’t move the joint. Even if you can’t get to a medical facility, there’s no need to panic. Instead, recognize the type of injury and treat accordingly. […]

By | March 13th, 2012|Bones|12 Comments

(Don’t) Pull My Finger: How Jerking a Jammed Joint Makes Things Worse

For a finger jam, you can create a “buddy splint” by taping the jammed finger to the one next to it. I like to tape it with a curve to make the hand easier to use. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I played a lot of football and basketball growing up. It was fairly common for the ball to hit someone’s finger kind of head-on on the tip while the finger was straight. We called it a jammed finger.  Invariably someone would try to unjam it for us. They’d catch hold and pull with a jerk as hard as they could. I still see it in the office. Grown men and women pulling on their jammed fingers after injuring them on a home project. It’s bound to happen in disasters. The problem is, a jammed finger is usually a sprain. Sometimes there’s a broken bone, or a torn tendon or ligament. Pulling on it is not going to help. It only causes needless pain and can damage the joint further. Even if it’s truly dislocated, pulling the finger with a jerk to unjam it is never the treatment. […]

By | March 8th, 2012|Bones|166 Comments

How a Felon Could Make You Lose a Finger

This is a paronychia—an infection that stays around the fingernail. It’s not as dangerous as a felon (another type of finger infection), but it still needs proper treatment so it doesn’t get worse. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. If you’ve ever had a hangnail that got a little infected, you discovered you have a lot of nerve endings in your fingers. And you found out you use your hands for just about everything. Hands you’ll especially need during disasters. Fortunately, most infected hangnails heal well as long as you keep the area dry and clean. (Gloves? Band-Aids?) But sometimes, rarely, an infected finger can get serious. The infection can run up the finger, into your hand’s tendons, and you have a dangerous mess on your hands—literally. Or the fingertip can become so swollen that it starts cutting of the circulation, putting you in danger of losing that finger. This type of infection is called, perhaps appropriately, a felon. Here are some tips to help you kinda know what you’re dealing with and what to do. […]

By | February 23rd, 2012|Other Wounds, Skin|504 Comments