In Good Hands: The 5 Guidelines to Hand Therapy

  • Michael Grant
  • August 15, 2017

Hands help us with many small tasks, like pouring tea, driving and brushing our teeth. But if your hands hurt even a simple job can be difficult. Beneath the skin your hands are an exquisite structure of ligaments, joints, tendons, nerves and bones. All of these can be damaged by injury or illness.

👏 1. The importance of hands

Carrying a shopping bag can be hard if you have arthritis. Your work and hobbies can be affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. And dressing yourself can be complicated if you have a hand or finger deformity.

Hands also help us communicate and express emotion (e.g. with sign language.) They are the only part of your body that other people can see nearly all the time. Many of us are very aware of how our hands look. Hand pain or deformity can be embarrassing especially for people who don’t feel good about themselves.

👏 2. Hand therapy

Speak with your chiropractor about the pain that you are feeling. If the problem requires a specialist, they may refer you to a hand therapist for help. A certified hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who has special education and training in rehabilitation of the hand and upper extremities including the wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder.

The therapist’s high level of skill requires continuing education and usually advanced certification. This training means the hand therapist can work with clients with upper extremity problems, so they can return to a normal, productive life.

This often starts within the first few days of an injury or surgery continuing until a client returns to work and/or their former lifestyle.

👏 3. Upper extremity disorders

A hand therapist helps people who have a variety of upper extremity disorders. Clients may have been affected by an accident or trauma, leaving them with scars, burns, injured tendons or nerves, fractures or amputations of the finger, hands or arms.

Hand therapists also treat people who are disabled from the effects of repetitive motion disorders like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. Many have chronic problems like arthritis or a neurological condition.

👏 4. How a hand therapist helps hands

The therapist evaluates your hand’s range of motion and strength, as well as pain, swelling, or physical limitations caused by your condition. To help you regain normal use of your hand, the therapist may help create a custom-made splint that immobilizes part of your hand or stretches stiff joints. The splint can provide pain relief, allows you to function, or realign your joints to a more anatomically correct position.

A hand therapist often suggests ways to improve a work environment (called ergonomics). He or she can also help you protect your joints, modify activities and pace activities to speed recovery and prevent future injuries.

👏 5. Hand therapy exercises & treatments

A hand therapist may also suggest exercises to help increase a joint’s range of motion or lengthen a muscle and associated tendon by stretching. Other exercises strengthen muscles around a joint to give it more power and endurance. These can also help tendonitis and non-painful arthritis conditions.

A hand therapist has special treatments for arthritis, tendonitis, carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome, or trigger finger. These treatments include heat or ice for ultrasound, massage and iontophoresis, in which an anti-inflammatory medication is driven into skin using a low-dose electrical current.

Another treatment, fluidotherapy, uses a machine filled with tiny bits of cellulose, suspended in a heated stream of air, which is like a whirlpool. Gently exercising your hands in the hot chamber is soothing and therapeutic.

Insurance coverage of hand therapy varies. Check your plan for details.

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Hello, my name is Michael and I'm a cancer survivor. I'm also a home entrepreneur and stay-at-home grandfather. In the past thirty years, I've dabbled in the the financial sector, the technology industry, as well as a little business consulting. I guess you can call me a jack of all trades!

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