You grab an avocado, take a knife, and begin slicing it in your hand—it seems pretty standard, right? This method is all wrong and could actually be dangerous. In fact, one in four people go to the emergency department due to injuries to their hand. It’s one of the most injured parts of the body.
Avocado hand happens when a person uses a knife to remove the pit of an avocado but, instead, slices through the soft fruit into their hands or fingers. The consequences can be devastating. Here’s why.
You can damage your tendons and nerves
The power to your hand comes from the muscles in your forearm, which are attached to your fingertips through tendons that run through your wrist. The major nerves in your hand run on the front of your hand, close to the skin.
Your nerves are responsible for powering your muscles and causing sensation in your fingertips. "They are the electrical wires that give you the ability to touch things," says Christopher Goodenough, MD, a a hand surgeon in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at University of Utah Health. "If you touch a tabletop or a dog, you know right away what you’re touching because of sensation in your fingers."
If you cut your hand with a kitchen knife or another sharp object, you can damage your tendons, nerves, blood vessels, or even the muscle. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may cause you to:
- Lose the ability to flex your fingers
- Feel a dull sensation or completely lose sensation in your finger
- Have trouble making a fist (usually one finger stays up)
- Have muscle deficit
- Not be able to use your hand normally
You may need surgery and therapy
Because your nerves and tendons are so close to the surface of your hand, a task as simple as cutting an avocado can cause major surgery. If your injury causes you to lose function or sensation in your hand, hand surgery and hand therapy are likely needed.
Hand therapy can last weeks to months. Working with a certified hand therapist can help you achieve faster recovery results.
Hand injuries can take weeks to months to heal
The type of injury will determine how long your recovery will be. Here’s what you can expect.
- A hand injury without damage to the nerves or tendons would likely require sutures at an urgent care or emergency department.
- A hand injury with nerve damage would cause someone to lose sensation in their fingers and would need surgery to repair it. "Patients would have to go through rehab but can usually do that fairly quickly and are back to normal life in a couple weeks," Goodenough says. However, nerves heal very slowly, and it could take a couple months to regain normal sensation in your fingertip. Goodenough tells his patients that they can go about their day normally while their injury is healing.
- A tendon injury would require a lengthy surgery (about a couple hours) to repair the tendon, and therapy would follow. "Patients have to be diligent about their rehabilitation process because tendons can either scar together—which limits the finger to move—or they can rupture their tendon if they put too much force on it," Goodenough says.
I injured my hand—what do I do?
Hand injuries can be scary due to the amount of blood that may come from the wound. "There’s a lot of blood flow to the hand," Goodenough says. "If one of the main blood vessels is injured, the amount of blood is usually the scariest thing for patients." But that doesn’t always indicate a serious injury.
If you were to injure yourself while cutting an avocado, you should put pressure on the wound with some gauze or a clean towel to help stop or slow down the bleeding. Next, get treatment as quickly as possible at an urgent care or emergency department.
How to avoid avocado hand
The first piece of advice is to NOT cut the avocado while it is in your hand. Also, make sure you have a ripe avocado and use a butter knife. There are several safe ways to cut an avocado. Here’s one:
- Find a ripe avocado.
- Place the avocado on a cutting board and cut lengthwise.
- Twist the avocado and pull apart.
- Remove the pit by putting your index and middle finger between the pit. Place your thumb on the back and push to pop the pit out.
- Remove the skin using a spoon.