If you have a hand or upper extremity condition or injury, a certified hand therapist can evaluate and provide effective treatment for your issue. This will allow you to return to your normal day-to-day activities as quickly as possible – without uncomfortable symptoms or limitations.
What Is Hand Therapy?
A certified hand therapist is an occupational or physical therapist with advanced training and expertise who specializes in the rehabilitation of disorders and injuries affecting the hand, wrist, elbow, arm, and shoulder. Hand therapists support patients through all stages of healing and are able to:
- Evaluate a range of conditions, disorders, and injuries
- Create personalized and progressive treatment programs
- Provide preventive care to reduce the chance of future injuries
- Provide pre-operative care and rehabilitation following surgery
The hand and wrist, in particular, are complex structures made up of nerves, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints, and bones. Therefore, rehabilitation from a hand therapist who has expertise in treating the hand and upper extremity is advisable to ensure optimal results. Hand therapy plays a crucial role in successful recovery from injury of the hand and upper extremity, and in recovery and rehabilitation following surgery.
What Does Treatment Involve?
Hand therapy incorporates interventions and treatment techniques that aim to relieve pain, as well as restore function and range of motion. Treatment plans are specifically designed for the specific hand and upper extremity issue and can include:
- Therapeutic intervention
- Soft tissue rehabilitation and joint mobilization
- Modalities for pain relief and healing such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat/ice therapy
- Manual techniques
- Joint mobilization and stimulation of soft tissue and joints
- Stretching, active and passive exercises
- Customized progressive exercise programs
- Dry needling
- Splinting, bracing
- Patient education
What Disorders Can Hand Therapy Treat?
Because the hands are in constant use, they can be susceptible to a number of different types of acute and overuse injuries, particularly during sports or occupations that involve heavy use of the hand. They can also be affected by other conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which are caused by wear-and-tear as we age. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy can also make the hands more vulnerable to conditions that may require treatment from a hand therapist. Some common problems treated by a hand therapist include:
Tendons are the strong connective tissues that attach muscles to bones. Tendon disorders can occur when tendons become irritated, inflamed, or degenerated from repetitive motions or structural abnormalities. They can result in pain, as well as loss of movement and function. Common tendon injuries include tendonitis, trigger finger/thumb, DeQuervain’s syndrome, tennis elbow, shoulder impingement syndrome, and flexor and extensor tendon injuries.
Nerve disorders can be caused by a number of factors such as trauma or pressure on (or stretching of) a nerve. Nerves transmit messages from the brain to the hand, allowing it to move. Sensory information allows you to feel pain, pressure, and temperature. The main nerves in the hand are the radial nerve, median nerve, and ulnar nerve. If the nerves become trapped or injured, it can prevent them from functioning properly, leading to a lack of sensation and/or movement. Common nerve disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, affecting the median nerve, and cubital tunnel syndrome, which affects the ulnar nerve in the elbow.
There are many different types of arthritis. The most common to affect the hand or upper extremity are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling inside joints, which can get worse over time with repetitive use and the aging process.
Other common disorders of the hand and upper extremity that can be treated successfully by a hand therapist include:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Nail bed injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Congenital anomalies
- Dislocations and fractures
- Joint Instabilities
- Rotator cuff strains and tears
- Thermal injuries
Surgery may be necessary if non-surgical treatments have been unsuccessful or if there is severe damage to the hand or upper extremity. Surgical procedures can include fracture surgery, infection surgery, joint replacement, tendon repair or transfer surgery, and trigger finger release surgery.
If surgery is required, a hand therapist can work with you through all stages of your treatment and rehabilitation to ensure you have a successful recovery as quickly as possible. A pre-op exercise program can help to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons prior to surgery, which can help to speed up recovery after surgery. Post-op therapy involves your hand therapist developing a personalized treatment plan to minimize pain and ensure you regain full use and function following surgery.
Specialist Hand Therapy in Austin, Round Rock, and Manor, TX
If you are looking for a hand therapist, Endeavor Physical Therapy & Wellness can help. We offer specialized hand therapy services for the treatment of hand and upper extremity injuries and disorders, as well as a comprehensive range of physical therapy services.
We have 8 convenient locations serving Austin, Round Rock, Manor, Pflugerville, Cedar Park, Bee Caves, and Hutto. If you would like to request an appointment or find out more about our hand therapy services, call us at (512)-284-7192 or you can request an appointment online.