Hand Therapy is a type of rehabilitation performed or provided by an occupational or physical therapists to patients suffering from conditions or difficulties affecting the upper extremity of the body (shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand). The upper body helps an individual to perform a number of movements and activities by providing dexterity and strength. We all know that our body including the upper body is made up of bones, tedons, muscles, nerves, veins, ligaments and connective tissues that can get damaged easily due to a number of reasons. When the upper body parts get damaged, a hand therapist bridges the gap between medical supervision to post-treatment recovery allowing an individual to return to a normal lifestyle.
Through proper application of advanced education, clinical experience and integration of knowledge in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology (muscle testing to identify imbalances in the body’s structural, chemical and emotional energy), hand therapists are able to provide treatments without an operation, helps with pain management and helps to reduce sensitivity from nerve problems. He or she will help you in making splints to prevent and improve muscle stiffness, helps you performing everyday activities, and provides you with home exercise programs to help with movement and building strength and helps you to get back to work.
A qualified hand therapist will evaluate your deformity, swelling, sensitivity and difference in colour to determine the scope, limitations and severity of the injury or operations. His or her main goal is to restore function, limit the progression of pathology or prevent upper limb dysfunction through rehabilitative, preventive, non-operative and conservative treatment. The therapists will work closely with the patient and doctor to provide optimum care and support.
A hand therapist will require a certification whose credential will depend on the number of years he or she has practiced (minimum being five), have done at least 4,000 hours of clinical treatment for hand and has the required certification exam. Therefore, a CHT (Certified Hand Therapist) will employ a variety tools and techniques, including soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, wound care, scar management, edema control, custom splint fabrication, ergonomic/workstation instruction, pain control, biofeedback work/functional retraining, training and activity modification, therapeutic modalities like heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, shortwave diathermy and manual therapy.
A hand therapy treatment provides relief from pain, helps in reduction of sensitivity, learns to move their hands to do their daily activities, helps in making splints to prevent or improve stiffness and helps you get back to work.
Hand therapy can be provided in a number of cases ranging from fractures, tendinitis, lacerations (lesions) or tears, sprain or trauma, wounds, hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), amputation (finger) and arthrosis or arthritis and stroke.
If the trauma or injury is specific to any other body parts like legs, back or abdomen, then you will not undergo hand therapy and instead undergo physical therapy or other forms therapies.
As there are no known side effects of hand therapy but if done improperly or by an unprofessional occupational therapists, then go to a doctor immediately if you develop these symptoms as a result of hand therapy. You can experience pain that might lead to pain and poor motivation. Discuss this with your therapists or doctor. You can also experience swelling along with pain. Ask your therapists whether you can use ice pack post session of therapy. This can lead to feeling depressed with lack of outcome or result from hand therapy. Remember that the purpose of hand therapy is to provide relief and not to cause you pain or stress.
There are no definite post-treatment guidelines for hand therapy as the procedure forms a part of post-treatment recovery.
As hand therapy is a post-treatment procedure, the recovery period is inclusive of hand therapy and will depend on the type of injury, wound or trauma a person have suffered. Generally recovery takes an average of two to three weeks.
The result of hand therapy will depend on the type of injury, trauma or wound you have suffered and also whether you are following the instructions of the occupational therapists diligently. If all of the above holds true, then results are usually permanent.
Depending on the type of injury or trauma you experience or have, you can go for chiropractor instead of hand therapist to give you relief and support.