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Cindy McCain's handshake injury

August 13, 2008 |  2:46 pm

All political spouses and their vote-seeking mates smile and extend their hands to the masses -- over and over and over, tens of thousands of times. Today in Michigan, Cindy McCain had one handshake too Cindy2 many, and a presumably well-intentioned grip resulted in a sprain that sent her to a hospital in West Bloomfield for X-rays. A campaign spokeswoman said McCain's had previous surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome and the handshake exacerbated the condition.

"Funny as it may sound, handshaking is a common source of people having sore hands," says Dr. Leon Benson, professor of orthopedic surgery at Northwestern University School of Medicine. "There are people, in the name of giving a strong handshake, who squeeze in a way that's pretty uncomfortable." He himself remembers having a sore hand for three days after an aggressive handshake.

But surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, unless it was within the last six to nine months, probably wouldn't make the hand or wrist any more vulnerable than normal, he said. "If you catch somebody the wrong way, it can really hurt, but I've never seen anything serious come of it." The American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons has a wealth of information on all sorts of injuries, including hand and wrist sprains and strains. (Editor's note: the above-linked page at the AAOS site wasn't loading at the time of this post. UPDATE: site loading as of 4:15 p.m.) 

Meanwhile, anyone out there with adoring fans, whether politician or movie star, might consider wearing a wrist brace to signal a vulnerable extremity. Cupping the hand could prevent a squeeze, or offering the fingers only, royalty-style, rather than the full hand. Or you could always cross your arms over your chest, bow respectfully and say, "Sorry, but I think I'm getting a cold and don't want to spread germs."

But those things might smack of social aloofness. "There are so many social issues that arise over the meaning of a handshake, that people just suffer through it," says Benson.

-- Susan Brink

Photo: Associated Press / Mary Altaffer. Cindy McCain, her arm in a sling after handshake injury.

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Comments (45)

JFK used to hold his hand bent with fingers up to clasp the ends of peoples' fingers because it hurt to shake so many hands.

I'm all in favor of the fist bump, that's really the best way to go.

I have arthritis and know very well how difficult a handshake can be! I smile, am quite polite and up front and say: " I cannot shake hands, but I can give you a smile"

If someone does not understand that..well- I can show them my bent up hand- that usually does the trick! I like the Asian way- a polite greeting- the bow!

The McCain health care plan, which is just Bushes health plan copied and repasted is a huge middle class tax increase. By 2013 if McCain’s health care plan is in place it will have raised taxes on every family by more than $1,200.
Anyone else dislike how McCain is going to raise taxes the bottom 99% of Americans but decrease them for the top 1%?
Anyone else dislike how McCain will decrease taxes to large corporations who ship your jobs overseas especially when 2/3’s of them already don’t pay taxes due to loopholes, subsidies, and tax rebates. Large corporations should pay their fair amount of taxes, which they currently are not, regardless how much McCain tries to mislead you and me.

Obama on the other hand has a health care plan that saves us 107 Billion through Medicare drug negotiations, electronic medical records and his health insurance plan.
Obama on the other hand gives the bottom 99% of Americans tax cuts and will eliminate taxes for small business who employ the majority of Americans. while stopping large corporations taking your job away from cheating on their taxes

Cindy has my sympathy since I have also had carpal tunnel problems. She would be well advised to come up with a gesture to replace her hand shaking, which is just another cause of repetitive use injury. All politicians and their families need to remember that hands are most important simply for daily life and they should not be abused in any way.

Repeat carpal tunnel surgeries have only a 5% chance of success, according to an article from the Mayo Clinic. In addition they carry a 1% risk of creating worse problems. Cindy simply must rest her hand for six weeks or she risks permanent loss of use. McCain supporters should simply not extend their hand to shake her hand out of respect for her. Perhaps a wave or a tip of the head would be best.

She should have tried a Fist Bump.

Let me guess......the doctors prescribed Vicodin or perhaps Percocet. If so look for Cindy to be regular addict to the campaign trail.

Just an excuse, not to shake hands with the common folk. Uppity

Doing a "namaste" Indian-style has no such side-effects. Of late I am noticing several celebrities do a namaste and a bow to the audience. Along with a cheerful smile, this is a great substitute for the handshake!

More on the greeting here -

I wouldn't shake her hand. She is a scarrrrrry looking woman.

@Walter L. Johnson

A terrorist fist bump perhaps?

Oh ya, I can picture it now, Republicans adopting the Namaste greeting. As soon as they start greeting each other with "Peace, brother".

So sorry to hear about Mrs. Cindy McCaine's discomfort. I hope her pain goes away very soon. I think it is impolite to give heavy handshakes to ladies. Proper judgement is needed in this regard. This gender thing can sometimes go way out of control...You know what I'm hinting.

I have to agree with Dane, the fist bump is the way to go.

Polls show McCain gains in hand-injury votes.

Do John McCain or conservative republicans respect the moral foundations of this country? The U.S. Constitution was designed to protect the people of America from misguided government.

U.S. Constitution: Amendment I - Freedom of Religion
Right now, for the first time ever, your tax dollars are funding religious groups you may not agree with. To add insult to injury, conservative judges have ruled that taxpayers do not have a right to challenge this expenditure.

Amendment IV - Search and seizure
Under the guise of court action against abortion, Conservative republicans had John Ashcroft subpoena all the medical records of literally thousands of women just like you and members of your family. Conservative republicans are invading your privacy every day. Unfortunately for all of us, they don't appear to care about our U.S. constitution, or by extension, the people of our great country.

Amendment X - Powers of the States and People
John McCain and conservative republicans have tried consistently to overturn States Laws. They used your tax dollars to destroy the will of the people of Oregon, and the famous "Death with Dignity" law; they lost, but undoubtedly will try again. Conservative republicans and John McCain do not respect States Rights.

Amendment VIII - Cruel and Unusual punishment
Would you rather die, or support a government which supported and sanctioned torture? The founding fathers would rather have died, and in fact they were proud to fight and die for our government: A government which specifically outlaws cruel and unusual punishment for very important reasons.

John McCain and the conservative republicans have destroyed the moral foundations of our country. I urge you to keep this in mind in the coming election as we rebuild our nation together by voting Democrat.

i hate shaking ppls hands. I love the fist bump, or the asian bow, or a smile. Quick etiquette lesson: it is rude for men to extend a hand to woman, the woman must initiate the hand shake.

Just an excuse to get pain killers for her addiction. I never seen any other potential first lady's get in a sling. This woman is drug addicted and needs help.

How is Frank US's post relevant?? .... Oh it is liberal .... yea that makes anything relevant with the press.

Can we PLEASE banish this custom of shaking hands? It is unsanitary and disgusting.

Sounds like old Cindy is hurting for some of those pills again. Oh I hurt my hand, medicate me!!

Perhaps Cindy should get some pain medication. Then again, maybe not!

and if it was michelle obama's hand there would be outcries for an apology

"POLLS SHOW MCCAIN GAINS IN HAND-INURY VOTES." Herunar (about six comments up)


"Or you could always cross your arms over your chest, bow respectfully and say, "Sorry, but I think I'm getting a cold and don't want to spread germs."

Geez but I get tired of people telling me that lies are an acceptable form of social interaction. Is having a sore wrist such a worse social disease than a cold that it justifies a bald-faced lie?

Offer them your left hand, for crying out loud. Life is only as complicated as we make it. If someone gets offended by my left hand, so what. That's their baggage, not mine.

"Can we PLEASE banish this custom of shaking hands? It is unsanitary and disgusting." More unsanitary than deep kissing would you say, I'm smiling.



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