After an Injury; Managing Life With One Hand

Candy Spilman By Candy Spilman, 14th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Recovery & Coping

We use our hands for nearly everything we do. Temporarily losing the use of one of them can be devastating, but there are a few tips and tricks to get by.

You have to adapt

Most of us take having two hands for granted. Until we find ourselves deprived of the use of one, we probably don’t realize how much we depend on having both of them. If you injure one of your hands or have to get a cast on your arm, for example, you will find yourself facing a set of problems in completing many of your everyday chores.

There are a few tips to help get through this time, but you need to remember to follow your physician’s orders to the letter. If you have been told not to move the fingers on the injured hand, then do not do so. Similarly, there are some things you are most likely not going to be able to do, such as wash dishes, bathe children or anything that would require both hands to be submerged in water. You also need to remember that even if you are allowed to use to injured hand or arm to some degree, it may be awkward. Therefore, you may want to avoid picking up a baby, or other tasks in which you need full coordination.

Dressing yourself

The first hurdle you will face is dressing yourself. If possible, stick to stretchy pants or shorts and slip-on shoes. If you are a female, you might want to try a front-fastening or a sports bra. Loose tops are best, and dressing will be easier if you insert the injured arm first, and when undressing, remove it last. Try to avoid clothing items with buttons or fasteners.

One-handed grooming and hygeine

If you have long hair, you might have to ask for help to groom it every day. Otherwise, you can simply comb or brush it the best you can one-handed. A headband can help keep the hair out of your face. Shampooing and bathing will be a challenge, especially if you have to keep the area dry, such as with a cast. Travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner will be more convenient to manage – you will soon master the trick of flipping them open and squeezing them with your good hand into the same hand. If that is too challenging, you can hold the bottle upside down against your side and squeeze into your palm. A washcloth and bath brush are helpful to be able to reach areas such as under the good arm. Shaving will be more manageable with an electric razor. There are a couple of ways to apply toothpaste to a brush with one hand. You can hold the brush handle in your mouth, or if you are able, tuck it in between your injured arm and body to keep it in place while applying paste. Toothpaste from a pump might be easier to use than a tube which has to be squeezed.

If you have lost the use of your dominant hand, you might want to use personal wipes in the bathroom instead of tissue. It will make it easier to stay clean and fresh.

Everyday tasks

To be more self-sufficient with other tasks, you might want to have a rubber jar opener, an extended reaching tool, and a set of Octopus suction cups. It helps to have a clear space on the kitchen counter to set items to open them. If possible, have someone else open new jars or bottles ahead of time, to make it easier for you. If you have a safe place to store them, away from the reach of small children, you might want to have someone open any prescription bottles for you and set the lids loosely on top of them. You will figure out many tips and tricks as you go, from using your knees to hold something steady to using your chin to move something out of the way.

Don't get too independent

Remember, you only have one hand, thus the amount you can lift has been decreased. That’s especially important to remember if you are trying to cook. Don’t try to lift a large pan that is filled with hot food or liquid. It’s best to stick to individual servings, and even then, have a care. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed in your good hand so that it doesn’t tip and burn you.

The human body has a remarkable way of adapting to new scenarios. You will become somewhat adjusted to your impairment, but even so, never be embarrassed about asking for help if you need it.


Cast, Challenge, Handicap, Healing, Injury, One Hand, Recovery

Meet the author

author avatar Candy Spilman
Former journalist turned freelancer. I'm a mom and grandma and love to write about family or Christian topics.

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author avatar peachpurple
14th Jul 2015 (#)

if i have one hand, I would cut my hair very short and wear t-shirts all day

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author avatar LivelyAurora
18th Jul 2015 (#)

As of my small memory, I really do want to remember this article just in case if a injury with my arms happens to me. Its great that you are looking out for those one-armed people! Bethany Hamiltion managed well with one hand, so why can't everyone?

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