Thanksgiving Meal Prep Hand Safety Tips

Thanksgiving is a well-loved national holiday where you celebrate and enjoy a traditional turkey feast. While the kitchen is associated with family and delicious food, Thanksgiving meal prep can be overwhelming and result in hand and wrist injuries or aggravate conditions like tendonitis and carpal tunnel. Hand safety tips for meal prep help protect you from injuries and avoid heightened strain on existing hand and wrist conditions.

What are Common Hand and Wrist Injuries in the Kitchen?

Consider the following list of hand and wrist injuries to gain a better understanding of how to protect yourself during your Thanksgiving meal prep.

Cutting Your Hand

Cutting your hand is the most common kitchen injury. Using a knife during meal prep puts you at risk for cuts on your hand, although they’re often minor and require minimal attention at home. Other knife-related injuries can include lacerations, partial amputation, or total amputation of fingers and may require surgery. Sometimes a knife wound appears small but can cause accidental cutting of tendons, nerves, and ligaments and require reconstructive hand surgery.

Burns in the Kitchen

Burns in the kitchen are common when using appliances such as ovens, stoves, and fryers. Boiling water, splattering grease, heated pans, and scorching oven dishes may cause burns on your hands and other body parts. Most burns are mild and don’t require a visit to a medical practitioner. However, severe burns may require immediate medical or surgical treatment to prevent further damage. Burn treatment depends on the severity of the injury.


Tendonitis is a common injury occurring when a tendon becomes inflamed from small-sized tears. A significant increase in repetitive hand use during Thanksgiving meal prep, like chopping vegetables, can inflame tendons and cause soreness and pain with movement. Long-term inflammation can rupture the tendon or cause further injury. A ruptured tendon usually requires reconstructive wrist surgery. Tendonitis of the hand is often called “Mommy Thumb”.

Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel is a condition where pressure from swollen tissue on the main nerve in the wrist leads to sensations of pins and needles. In severe cases, the muscles in your hand may weaken and cause a loss of fine motor skills. Constant circular motions like whisking, swirling the contents of pans, and reaching into mixing bowls can cause pressure on your wrist and exacerbate the condition. Moderate or severe carpal tunnel may require surgery, which involves cutting a ligament within the wrist to relieve nerve pressure. This surgical procedure has minimal scarring and a speedy recovery period.

Other Hazards

Damage to your hand and wrist can occur from slipping on a wet floor or tripping and falling. Garbage disposal blades are razor sharp and can cause hand and wrist injuries. Many people push food too far down while the garbage disposal is in operation or attempt to retrieve a piece of jewelry and cut themselves on still blades. Simple precautions can help you enjoy a safe Thanksgiving meal prep and injury-free holiday celebrations.

Hand Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Meal Prep

The Hand and Wrist Institute compiled this list of hand safety tips to help prevent injuries while preparing your Thanksgiving meal.

Change How You Perform Tasks

Changing how you perform tasks in the kitchen may help facilitate injury-free Thanksgiving meal prep. Use an electric can opener and scissors instead of your thumb when opening bags. These tasks add unnecessary pressure to the hands and wrist, especially for pre-conditions like carpal tunnel, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Slide heavy pots off burners and onto a trivet or hot pad and slide the oven shelf out for a safe grasp on dish handles. Don’t overstrain yourself opening jars; instead, break the seal on a tight lid by running it under warm water.

Use the Correct Tools

Use easy-to-grip versions of kitchen tools and shop for items with oversized handles like scissors, potato peelers, and serving utensils. Comfortable handles decrease the stress on your hands and don’t require force to grip and hold objects. Find easy-open canisters for storing ingredients, use kitchen shears to cut bones, and choose lightweight dishes and tools to help protect your hands and wrists from unwanted strain.

Practice Safe Knife Skills

Knives are dangerous kitchen tools, so eliminate distraction while handling them to prevent injury to your hand and wrist. Make sure you use a sharp knife, as a dull knife requires more pressure to cut. Curl your fingers in and cut away from your body when trimming, and don’t place your hand underneath the meat you’re slicing. Never cut toward yourself, and carry your knife pointing down with the cutting edge facing away. Clean your knife straight after use, and make sure not to place sharp knives in the dishwater.

Protect Yourself

Always choose a sturdy, flat working surface to protect your hand and wrist from unpleasant accidents. The mitt-style potholder is safer than the simple flat design, as it shields the top and bottom of your hands. These potholders can also keep your hands in the proper positions while moving heated, heavy items and don’t require awkward hand or wrist placements. Make sure your potholder is completely dry before using it to lift something hot, as a wet cloth conducts heat rather than blocking it and can cause you to drop your casserole or can burn your hands.

Be Cautious

Don’t rush or get distracted, and always practice general safety in your kitchen. Never leave a deep fryer unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure your chopping board isn’t wet to prevent your knife from sliding and cutting your finger, hand, or wrist. Use good posture as the nerves in your hands begin in the neck, and lack of alignment above the shoulders may cause injury further down the arms.

Treatment Options for Hand and Wrist Injuries

Treatment options depend on the severity of the injury or condition. A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to any Thanksgiving meal prep injuries. If you burn yourself, run it under cold water immediately to help ease the pain and prevent blistering. Wash minor cuts on your hands with disinfectant and pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel; apply antibiotic cream and bandage to keep it clean. Consult a medical practitioner for moderate or severe sprains, cuts, or burns. If you need help with your potential condition, use the free Where Does it Hurt?® interactive tool.

Contact The Hand and Wrist Institute Today

So, there you have it. The Hand and Wrist Institute just shared our Thanksgiving meal prep safety tips. We hope this article helped you explore some potential hand and wrist injuries in the kitchen. If you need help with an injury or a pre-existing condition, contact us so that our doctors can provide you with more information about the cause of your injury and how to prevent it from happening again. To learn more about hand and wrist conditions, visit our blog to read about the symptoms and treatment options available.

Image by Rodnae Productions is licensed with Pexels

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.