Certified hand therapists specialize in evaluating and treating patients after hand or wrist injuries and conditions. Hand therapy can help return patients to their highest level of function and decrease their pain and immobility. Hand therapists have a variety of techniques and tools they utilize including stretches and exercises, management of pain and inflammation, wound and scar care, and prosthetic and orthotic fabrication services. The following injuries and conditions can all be treated with hand therapy:
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Hand therapists will work with patients suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to help improve mobility and function while decreasing pain. Research has shown that physical therapy can achieve equal and sometimes more successful outcomes compared to surgery. Even patients who have undergone surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can still benefit from hand therapy post-surgery while they are healing. The exercises, stretches and therapeutic massages taught by the hand therapist can help increase wrist strength and function.
• Amputations – The loss of a finger after an amputation is not only physically painful but also emotionally upsetting. Hand therapists can work with patients to help rebuild strength and flexibility with hand exercises and stretches. These exercises can increase healing time and keep the skin mobile. Hand therapists will also help their patients to adapt to their new situation by finding new way of doing daily tasks. If the patient gets a prosthetic, hand therapy can also teach them how to use it effectively and efficiently.
• Fractures – Hand, finger and wrist fractures can cause pain, inflammation and decreased mobility and use of the affected hand. After a fracture has stabilized, a hand therapist can work with the patient to perform a series of exercises and stretches to help increase mobility and reduce inflammation and stiffness in the hand.
• Dupuytren’s Disease – Dupuytren’s contracture is a common finger disorder which most often affects the ring or pinky fingers on one or both hands. As the disease progresses, the unintentional bending of the affected fingers becomes more and more severe. Eventually, without treatment, it may become impossible to straighten the fingers. This can be painful for patients as they lose partial use of their hand(s). Working with a hand therapist, patients are encouraged to perform daily exercises and heat treatments that are aimed to slow the effects of Dupuytren’s Disease. Cortisone injections can also be used to help with pain and inflammation. For patients with severe Dupuytren’s disease surgery is often necessary. After surgery, a hand therapist can help patients regain strength and mobility and aid in recovery.
• Joint Replacements – After a joint replacement surgery the affected finger will be bandaged and placed in a splint for support. Once the surgeon has approved rehabilitation, a hand therapist will work with the patient to perform a series of exercises and stretches aimed to help regain the range of motion, strength and dexterity in the finger, wrist, hand, elbow and shoulder. With heat, ice, electrical currents and massage techniques the hand therapist can also help lessen pain and improve circulation.
• Nerve Repair – After a surgical nerve repair the hand will be placed in a split to immobilize it. After the nerve has healed sufficiently the doctor will send the patient to therapy. During the initial therapy sessions, the therapist will teach the patient stretches and exercises to regain motion in stiff joints. Further sessions will focus on strengthening the hand and increasing function and mobility. Hand therapists will also work to help the patient regain sensation while the nerve is healing.
• Tendon Repair – Rehabilitation hand therapy after a tendon repair includes splint care, scar massage and active movement exercises and stretches. During the first session the therapist will remove the dressings, check the wound and teach the specific exercises the patient should perform with the splint. After the stitches are removed the patient can begin to massage the scar daily which will increase circulation and aid healing. The hand therapist will also teach the patient more active exercises and create a daily routine for the patient to perform throughout the rest of the healing process.
• Trigger Finger/Thumb – Trigger Finger and Trigger Thumb are conditions which affect the movement of the hand’s tendons when the fingers or thumb bend towards the palm of the hand. Trigger fingers can cause pain when the fingers are straightened and a clicking sensation when the fingers are bent. Therapy as a treatment for Trigger Finger has shown success but only when triggering has been present for less than four months. After that, surgery is the recommended treatment. After surgery, a hand therapist will work with the patient to help heal the inflamed area by using gentle range-of-motion exercises. The therapist may also use soft-tissue massage, heat treatments or hands-on stretching to help with mobility.
OakBend Medical Center has certified hand therapists available to evaluate and treat any finger, hand or wrist injury or condition. Their goal is to help speed your recovery so you can return to your everyday activities as soon as possible. If you are looking for a skilled therapist to aid your recovery and improve your hand strength and function please contact OakBend Medical Center today by calling 281-341-3000. You can also read more about their full range of physical therapy rehabilitation services on their website by clicking here.