Safety Tips Hand tools Injury prevention

What is hypothenar hammer syndrome?

Photo: Minerva Studio/iStockphoto

Workers, do you use the edge of the palm of your hand to grind, push or twist hard objects? If you do this often, you’re at risk of hypothenar hammer syndrome – a condition caused when blood flow to the fingers is reduced.

“These activities can damage certain blood vessels of the hand, especially the ulnar artery,” the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety explains. “Damage to the ulnar artery results in a reduction of blood flow to the fingers. Sometimes a single significant episode can cause hypothenar hammer syndrome.”

Workers at risk include auto mechanics, metal workers, lathe operators, miners, machinists, butchers, bakers, carpenters and bricklayers, along with workers who use vibrating tools.

Symptoms of hypothenar hammer syndrome include:

  • Pain over the edge of the palm and ring finger
  • Pins and needles feeling
  • Loss of sensation
  • Difficulty holding heavy objects in the affected hand
  • Fingers that are sensitive to cold
  • Fingers that change color

To help prevent the condition, don’t use your palm as a hammer, and make sure you’re wearing hand protection when needed. If symptoms persist, talk with your health care provider.

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