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You Can’t Straighten Your Finger. Do You Know What’s Wrong?

Tendon Injury or Ligament Injury? Can You Tell?

In this picture, tendons are running on top of the fingers except for the little finger, which shows the bone and the ligaments (much smaller and on the sides of the joints).

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

My mother used to love to tell the story about when I was an infant and I kept complaining that my heel was hurting. She looked and looked but couldn’t find anything wrong. Finally she figured out I was talking about my hip, not my heel.

It’s important to know your anatomy when you’re dealing with an injury. I’m guessing you know the difference between your hip and your heel, but what about a ligament versus a tendon?

If you understand what lies beneath the skin, not only will you have a better idea of what’s going on—and be able to communicate that to others—but you’ll also have a better idea of how to treat it. Also, if a computer or book—Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid :-)—is handy, you’ll be able to go right to the information needed.

Here are some definitions from my Living Ready book:

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The Inside Scoop on RICE for Injuries

The Inside Scoop on RICE for Injuries | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I love acronyms. They’re such great memory tricks. They saved me on many a test in medical school. And many of them I remember to this day. Needless to say, I use them when I can. RICE is one I use the most.

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Knee Injury: Your Top-4 Questions, Answered

Knee Injury: Your Top-4 Questions, Answered | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In this post, I’m going to address some of the more frequent questions that are being asked in the comment section of my post “8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It’s Bad.” The questions seem to center around the following:

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6 Clues Your Ankle is Broken, Not Sprained

The tibia is the larger of your two leg bones. The fibula is the smaller. The tibia bears the most weight, so if it’s broken near your ankle but you mistakenly think you just have a sprain, you can do even more damage just by walking on it.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Sometimes it’s not that easy to tell a sprain from a broken ankle.

Just this past year, a seventyish-year-old woman came limping into the clinic where I was working to have her ankle checked. Seemed she had twisted it a couple of weeks before and her husband was going to keep nagging her until she came in.

The X-rays revealed a break. A pretty bad one at that. She couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if she was more upset that she was going to need a cast and crutches or she’d have to acknowledge that her husband was right.

Many people come to the clinic convinced they have a break or just as sure it’s just a sprain. Often they end up being wrong. It’s not so easy for doctors to tell either. Fortunately we have the benefit of X-rays. But what if getting an X-ray is impossible? What can tip you off that it’s a sprain or a broken ankle? And why does it matter?

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Preventing Gout Flare-ups With or Without Medicine

"The Gout," by James Gillray. Published May 14, 1799.

“The Gout,” by James Gillray, published May 1799. In a 2005 article in London’s “The Independent” newspaper, art critic Tom Lubbock calls this “perhaps the first close-up” and says “this framing reflects how, for the sufferer, the gouty foot looms large and separate, the centre of attention.” Gout was a much talked-about ailment in the 18th century—to people then “what melancholy was to the high Renaissance, or stomach ulcers were to the 1950s,” says an article in the April 14, 2012, issue of “The Lancet.” Alcohol-based “bitters” was one purported remedy.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Several readers have asked me what to do for gout. Do natural remedies help? What’s a “gout foods to avoid list?”

No one needs a gout flair-up during a disaster. For those who don’t know, a gout attack usually consists of an extremely painful, red, swollen single joint. The most common is at the base of a big toe, but it can happen to any joint. If someone comes in and tells me they can’t even let a bedsheet touch the joint area because of the pain, I’m pretty sure it’s gout.

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The Broken Rib Don’t (Formerly a Do)

The broken rib don’t (formerly a do), by @James Hubbard

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I heard a pro football player being interviewed on television say that of all the multiple injuries he had suffered through, a broken rib was the most painful. I can see why. It hurts anytime you move your arms, bend—it even hurts to breathe. And it can hurt for weeks. So what can you do to help it heal and relieve the pain?

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What to Do If You Dislocate Your Kneecap

The kneecap is under that tendon.

The kneecap is under that brown tendon.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A dislocated kneecap is another one of the multiple knee injuries you can get. And you won’t be going far until it’s fixed. It’s painful, most of the time there’s a lot of swelling, and your knee can’t straighten.

Obviously you have to get to a doctor as soon as you can to make sure nothing else is injured and to put it back in place. Often, the doctor will also drain some of the blood off that’s accumulated around it (which can ease the pain dramatically).

But if getting to a doctor is impossible, here are some things you can try.

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Osgood-Schlatter—The Tennis Elbow of Children’s Knees

In this photo, the tibial tubercle (the knot below the knee) seems swollen; however, some people have more prominent knot than others anyway.

In this photo, the tibial tubercle (the knot below the knee) seems swollen; however, some people have more prominent knot than others anyway.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Children can get most of the same knee injuries as adults. They can sprain, tear, or break something at any age. But some knee injuries are more common in kids. In fact, one always begins in the growing years.

Osgood-Schlatter is technically a disease, but I think of it as an injury—kind of the tennis elbow of children’s knees. In fact, Osgood-Schlatter treatment and tennis elbow treatment are about the same.

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8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It’s Bad

"8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It's Bad," by @James Hubbard

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

It’s football season and prime time for knee injuries. But truth be told, I see them all year long—in athletes and the rest of us.

They happen at home, at work, and during any recreation at any age. Sometimes they happen when you’re just standing still and twist the wrong way.

When you hurt your knee, it may be evident you’ve done major damage. Often, though, it’s not so clear. Knee-sprain symptoms can be the same as symptoms from something more serious.

Even we doctors sometimes have a tough time telling a sprain from a tear. One reason is it’s hard to try to move a swollen, painful knee.

So what can you do when no one medical is around? There are a few things, but first, it helps to know the anatomy.

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Video: How to Make a Finger Splint

Video: How to Make a Finger Splint

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Okay, class. In recent posts, I’ve written about finger injuries and how to treat them. In case you weren’t quite able to grasp :-) how to make the different finger splints, I’ve made you a video. My homemade splints may not be the prettiest, but they should be as effective as any until you can get definitive medical treatment.

Whether the splint’s metal, wood, or the uninjured finger next to the injured one (a buddy splint), the objective is the same: keep the injured area stable until it heals. In the video I show how I’d make a finger splint for the following:

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