Hand therapy is a type of occupational therapy treatment that is both art and science. It involves evaluating and treating injuries and conditions all the way along the arm, including the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand.
A wide variety of techniques and therapeutic measures are designed to assist a person in overcoming an injury or condition. This therapy should help return them to their highest possible degree of functionality.
How Can a Hand Therapist Help?
To qualify as a certified hand therapist (CHT), a therapist must first practice for a minimum of five years and obtain over 4,000 hours of specialized treatment on hand and upper extremity disorders. This is in addition to a rigorous exam that demonstrates competency in the field of occupational and physical therapy focusing on the arm and hand.
The conditions hand therapists help patients overcome range from the upper arm to the fingers and anywhere in between. These specialized physical therapists assist patients with:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cubital tunnel syndrome
- Repetitive stress fractures
- Hand and arm fractures
- Crush-type hand injuries
- Regaining use of severed fingers
- Nerve injuries in the hand
- Recovery from reconstructive surgery on the hand
- Dupuytren’s contracture
- Trigger finger or thumb
- Shoulder or elbow injuries
Exercises and Methods in Hand Therapy
For people who have experienced a neurological injury such as a stroke, a hand therapist will likely recommend using the unaffected (“good”) hand to passively assist the affected hand in completing tasks. For people who have lost a finger or a portion of several fingers, the therapist will help the patient regain as much use as possible of the affected areas.
Many of these exercises will focus on common household tasks. The goal is to gently force the affected arm or hand in regaining the nimbleness that has been lost.
Exercises may include things like taking a loose handful of coins and stacking them according to denomination, or pinching a clothespin between the thumb and each finger. The brain and muscles must learn how to work together again, and this is done with practice.
Playing games that require manipulation, like checkers or chess, can help with mobility and ensure that the nerve signals are traveling between the brain and the hand. Tying one’s shoelaces or a necktie are great ways to assist people in overcoming difficulties with hand or arm motor control.
Re-learning how to play a beloved musical instrument, or simply playing a virtual piano or guitar app on a smartphone or video game console, are excellent types of hand therapy. These activities will help return eye-hand coordination which may have been lost.
Holding a canned food item and rolling it on a table from the ends of your fingers until it is tight in your grasp helps return the ability to clench your hand and grasp an item. Placing a pen on a table, picking it up with the affected hand, and placing it between a set of lines on the table can help return full motor control.
These basic activities may seem silly, but simple exercises like these can help you regain the use of your hand or arm.
Physical Therapy in Austin
If you or someone you care about has an injury or pain that is affecting their motor skills, contact the caring and skilled team at Endeavor Physical Therapy.
Call us today at (512) 284-7192 or request an appointment online, and place your hands in the best-qualified hands in the Austin area.