Occupational therapists (OTs) who specialize in hand therapy treat patients who need to regain functional use of their fingers, hands, and forearms. If you were injured or have a medical condition that limits the use of an upper extremity, the main goal of hand therapy is to help you do the tasks in life you want to do and that make your life meaningful.
Conditions hand therapy treats:
- Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (overuse injuries)
- Fractures of the hand, wrist, or forearm
- Tendonitis (also known as tendinitis)
- Congenital deformities (those present at birth)
- Surgical nerve and tendon injury repairs
Goals of hand therapy:
- Assess strength and range of motion in the affected upper extremity
- Reduce pain
- Increase functional use of the affected fingers, hand, or forearm
- Help you achieve independence, even if within the limits of a permanent disability
Treatment techniques an occupational therapist may use during hand therapy:
- Perform passive range of motion exercises to get the muscles around the joints moving again. The occupational therapist may help at first by gently bending and moving your fingers.
- Teach you how to perform active range of motion exercises, such as stretching and strengthening exercises, to begin moving your fingers or wrist once the pain has decreased.
- Simulate self-care and work activities for which you use your hands. The activities the OT chooses must relate to the activities you perform during and following your rehabilitation. Although OT activities help with physical healing, they also are designed to contribute to your emotional well-being throughout your recovery.
- Instruct you on adaptive techniques to help you accomplish tasks easier if you have limited hand mobility.
- Evaluate your home and work environments to recommend assistive devices or adaptive equipment that can help you overcome the physical limitations caused by your condition.
- Provide splints and other adaptive equipment that can help you resume your normal daily activities. Special orthotics include static splints to immobilize and support a fracture or surgically repaired ligament tissue during the healing process; dynamic splints that help stretch joints and increase range of motion; and static-progressive splints to mobilize stiff joints in the hand.
- Train you on how to use adaptive equipment to replace loss of function and improve your quality of life. Adaptive equipment may include extension reachers, button hooks, sock aids, adaptive utensils to help you eat, and universal cuffs (a type of splint) to help you hold items.
Since the success of an occupational therapy treatment plan relies on the level of commitment the patient makes, not all occupational therapy interventions take place within a clinical setting. Your occupational therapist will instruct you on therapy tasks you can do at home on your own to help you reach your occupational therapy goals so that you can do the things that matter to you.
For more information, contact a professional like Bayonet Point Health & Rehabilitation Center.