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If you’re working with power tools all day, every day, you’re used to dealing with vibrations by now. Almost every power tool produces some kind of vibrations through its workings. Using push mowers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws, construction equipment – it will all take its toll.
What is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
As we have moved from manual tools to power tools, we have noticed a number of issue arise. Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) attacks the nerves in the hands and arms. Worse, it can also effect the blood vessels and tissue in the hands and arms, leading to pain.
What are Some Symptoms of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
There are a few symptoms of the syndrome. Some are easily identifiable, others will often be attributed to other maladies at first:
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon- Sometimes referred to as “white finger,” it causes the tips of a finger or fingers to turn white and go cool, then progressively turn blue and then red as they regain blood flow.
- Numbness and Loss of Feeling- This can effect just the tips of the fingers or, in the worst cases, the entire finger. This symptom may lead to difficulty using the fingers for fine motor tasks, such as buttoning a shirt. This symptom can effect one finger, or all fingers.
- Aches and Pains- General aches and pains in the fingers, hands, and forearms will go along with a reduced grip. Joints may get stiff, and may crack and pop during use.
While you might not be able to avoid using equipment that produce heavy vibrations, you can figures out ways to mitigate the damage over time. There are a ranges of methods, including:
- Take breaks from time to time – for every half-hour you use a tool, take five or ten minutes off from using the tool. Mix up your tasks.
- Use the correct tools for each job, and make sure that you keep them properly maintained. An unbalanced piece of machinery will increase the likelihood of vibrations.
- Keep your hands warm in the cool weather, and consider using gloves throughout tool use.
- Consider using equipment with a built-in anti-vibration system, or adapting a system to current equipment.
How to Treat HAVS
Sometimes, no matter how hard you work to prevent it, the vibrations will take their toll. HAVS can sometimes get better and go away over time, but most often, there will be lasting issues. It can be treated, though.
- Keep your hands as warm as possible, particularly when you observe your fingers turning white.
- Regular exercise will help to improve circulation through the arms and hands.
- Smoking can make the symptoms worse by causing the blood vessels to narrow. The same goes for drugs such as caffeine, amphetamines, and cocaine. So avoid these drugs, and cut back on smoking.
- Some medications can cause the blood vessels to constrict. Consult with your doctor for alternatives.
Your best bet is to try and avoid issues with vibrations from the start. If you haven’t seen any symptoms arise yet, you still have time to prevent them. If you have seen symptoms, check with your doctor. Don’t ignore them – this can develop into something much worse if it doesn’t go unchecked. Remember, your health is more important than trimming that tree perfectly.