Your hands make up a small portion of your body, but if they hurt or don’t move effectively, it can really make your life unpleasant. You need your hands every day for tasks like grasping writing and eating utensils, using your phone, and so much more.
It’s easy to underestimate how much having use of your hands benefits your life until they stop serving you well. If you’re suffering after an injury, disease, or chronic pain, hand therapy can help restore your hands so they function well again.
This article will discuss what hand therapy is, how it can help you, and how to know if you need hand therapy.
What Is Hand Therapy?
Hand therapy is an evidence-based, specialized treatment that focuses on personalized services for individuals with injuries and other conditions of the upper extremities. The term hand therapy can be misleading because, in addition to hands, it treats the upper extremities, which involve the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels of the:
- Upper arms,
- Elbows, and
Hand therapists can be occupational or physical therapists who are highly trained to provide specialized care of your upper extremities. They have advanced certification to assess and treat conditions that affect them. Hand therapists use therapeutic interventions versus hand therapy interventions that allow you to regain maximum functional use of your upper extremities.
Hand therapy restores you back to health with personalized treatments, including:
1. Preventative Care:
Nobody wants to put the work into recovery and then start back at square one if it can be prevented. Preventive care teaches you practical tools like protecting your joints and conserving energy to avoid re-injury or worsening symptoms. It includes therapies such as:
- Patient education
- Custom splinting
- Strengthening and flexibility programs
In addition to preventing surgery, hand therapy is also used to help you heal after an operation.
2. Post-operative Care:
After surgery, you can enhance your recovery period and speed up the healing process through post-operative hand therapy, including:
- Edema (swelling) control
- Diagnosis-specific exercise programs
- Protective splinting
- Scar management
- Wound care
Hand therapy promotes healing through treatment modalities such as adaptive equipment and exercises.
Hand therapy rehabilitation restores mobility, flexibility, and strength. It is helpful for:
- Diagnosis-specific recovery after an injury
- Sensory re-education
- Work conditioning
- Pain management
Rehabilitation can also include customized splinting.
4. Customized Splinting:
A custom splint is designed to hold a body part in place after an injury or surgery. It is formed to fit you precisely to promote healing and prevent re-injury. Customized splinting may be utilized for:
- Post-operative healing
- Congenital or acquired deformity correction
- Reducing contracture (tightening and rigidity of the hand and fingers)
- Sports (or other) injuries
How does hand therapy look practically? Let’s use an example of recovering from surgery to remove a cyst from your wrist. Your hand therapist will use their training to assess your unique situation and develop a treatment plan specifically for you. Your treatment plan begins with education, so you always understand the thought process behind why any therapeutic tool is recommended to you.
Your treatment plan may also include reducing pain and inflammation using heat, ice, or ultrasound. To protect you from injury or overuse of your wrist, your hand therapist may recommend that you wear a supportive splint during the initial recovery phase.
Next, your therapist will help you work on improving your strength, flexibility, and range of motion through specific stretches and exercises. Finally, your hand therapist will adapt your treatment approaches accordingly as your wrist heals and pain subsides.
Now let’s talk about the types of conditions that might warrant hand therapy.
Which Conditions Can Hand Therapy Treat?
The specialized interventions we’ve discussed offer hope for recovery of a wide range of conditions related to upper extremities. Hand therapy can treat problems caused by a wide range of conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Crush injuries
- Cumulative trauma
- Fractures and dislocations
- Frozen shoulder
- Golfer’s elbow
- Nerve injuries
- Pain syndromes
- Replanted extremities
- Sports injuries
- Tendon injuries
- Trigger finger
How To Know if You Need Hand Therapy
At this point, you may recognize yourself in some of what we’ve described so far. And you may be wondering how to know if you need hand therapy.
A good place to start is to ask yourself if problems with your hands, wrists, arms, or shoulders are causing you to miss out on the activities you enjoy? Are you unable to work as efficiently as you once could? If you can answer “Yes,” to either of these questions, hand therapy can help you.
You may also benefit from hand therapy if the movement of your upper extremities is restricted when you try to participate in daily tasks, exercise, sports, or recreational activities. Regardless of the underlying cause of your reduced ability to function at your highest level, hand therapy may help.
Make an Appointment at Rock Valley
Have you literally lost your grip? If so, start regaining your strength by reaching out to Rock Valley PT. We are a patient-centered, therapist-led organization dedicated to improving your health. You don’t need a physician referral, and we accept nearly every type of insurance.
Our entire team is empathetic and cares about you, your concerns, and staying abreast of the best ways to serve you.
Our therapists are not only skilled and experienced, but they are also passionate about helping you achieve your health goals — and they want you to have fun while you do it. The advanced training of our hand therapists equips them to provide you with the comprehensive care you need to feel better and function at your best.
You don’t have to continue on with having pain or limited function impacting your life and daily activities in life-altering ways. Instead, invest in yourself and get back to the lifestyle you want to live. We offer more than 50 locations throughout Iowa and Illinois. Contact Rock Valley for an appointment near you today.