Occupations that require people to use vibrating hand tools or heavy equipment put you at greater risk of nerve damage in your hands. Excessive exposure to vibration can cause you a condition called vibration white finger (VWF). Research suggests that exposure to cold temperatures, which is common much of the year in Minnesota, worsens the condition. Being aware of the risk gives you an opportunity to prevent VWF.
VWF gets its name from the fact that one or more fingers will lose color, or whiten. This occurs due to restricted blood flow. The vibration impedes the delivery of blood through the vessels to the extremities.
If you use power tools, watch for these symptoms:
- White fingertips
- Numb fingers
- Tingling fingers
- Hand weakness
- Loss of fine motor skills
- Thumb pain
In the early stages, symptoms may last only a few minutes. As the condition progresses, symptoms will last for hours and eventually become chronic and even painful. Treatment involves reduction of power tool use and possibly prescriptions for antihypertensive medication and painkillers.
Tools associated with vibration damage to hands
The construction, manufacturing, and material processing industries frequently require workers to use power tools and vibrating machinery. Jackhammers, chainsaws, and impact wrenches vibrate your hands significantly. Operating a commercial pressure washer or rotary saw places a similar burden on your hands. If you work with tools like this, you may need to take time off work and seek workers’ compensation benefits due to your occupation causing the problem.
You have some options for preventing damage. Try to limit how long you use a tool to give your hands a chance to recover. Anti-vibration gloves also insulate your blood vessels and nerves from some of the forces acting against them.