Occupational therapy or a physical therapist who specializes in hand care performs hand therapy after an impairment or condition in the function of your hands or upper extremities is alleviated. This therapy focuses on the area between the shoulder and the arm, as well as joints, muscles, and tendons. Hand therapy helps relieve pain and allows people to continue performing daily activities.
People with physical conditions and injuries can benefit from occupational therapy. Hand therapy helps individuals who are suffering from ailments such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral palsy, fractures, and a stroke. Hand therapists often work with surgical teams to help the patient regain physical functioning that has been impaired after surgery.
How Does Hand Therapy Work?
Hand therapy is a form of occupational therapy used to treat someone with orthopedic-based upper-extremity conditions to help them carry out daily tasks, soothe their pain or lessen their discomfort. Hand therapists create a plan designed to help the client best accomplish the activities that are important to her in daily life. The primary goal of therapy is to focus on the performance of the activities the client is interested in promoting.
Hand therapy can improve the life quality of people who have the following problems:
- Lacerations, amputations, or burns
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fracture or surgery on the arm, shoulder, or hand
- Neurologic conditions, including stroke, that affect the use of the hand
Hand Therapy for Arthritis
Inflammation is the cause of arthritis, which causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. There are more than a hundred varieties of arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. There is currently no cure for arthritis, but treatments can promote its abatement, alleviate pain, and maintain your flexibility.
Hand therapy plays a crucial role in this process. By performing daily hand therapy, you can improve the condition of arthritis joints, reduce pain, improve mood, and boost the quality of life. A hand therapist will create an individualized exercise plan for a patient together with an assessment of their physical condition. Your muscles, joints, balance, and endurance will be examined to create a regimen for assisting you to deal with your arthritis.
These exercises lengthen your muscles and improve flexibility, and they can be performed at any time. Weight training can help you gain strength, but it is important to consult with a hand therapist beforehand to make sure that it is possible to perform this activity safely.
It is important to highlight that the exercises listed should not replace a hand therapist’s consultation, who will choose will depend on the physical health and condition of the patient.
- Hold the forearm with the opposite hand
- Start writing the capital letters of the alphabet in the air with loose fingers
- When it becomes too easy, make the letters smaller and the movements more precise
- People who need extra support can rest their elbows on a table
Wrist Extension and Flexion
- Put your wrist on a folded towel on a table and leave your hand handing on the edge
- Start with your palm facing down and move your hand up and down at the wrist
- Repeat it with the palm facing up
Wrist Ulnar/Radial Deviation
- Support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding on your knee, with your thumb facing upward
- Move the wrist up and down through its full range of motion
Wrist Supination and Pronation
- Stand or sit with your arm at your side and the elbow bent to 90 degrees, with your palm facing down
- Rotate your forearm so that your palm faces up and then down
Wrist Flexor Stretch
- Hold the arm out and keep the palm of your hand facing down
- Using the other hand, hold the fingers and stretch the wrist backward until a stretch is felt on the inside of the forearm
- Repeat the movements 10 times and repeat the exercise with the other arm
Many medical conditions, such as arthritis, can impair your grip strength. Simple exercises that do not consume too much time might strengthen your wrist movements and enhance your hand grip.
- Squeeze a grip-strengthening ball as tightly as you can for a few seconds
- Repeat the movements 10 times in each hand
- You can also use a tennis or stress ball
- Hold a ball between your thumb and another finger
- Squeeze it for five seconds
- Repeat the movement 10 times in each hand
Finger exercises are essential for improving strength and flexibility and relieving pain.
Hand/Finger Tendon Glide
- Start with all your fingers straight and make a hook fist
- Make your hand straight again and make a full fist
- Make a straight fist; return to a straight hand
- Repeat the movement 10 times in each hand
Make An O
- Start with your hand straight and slightly bend your thumb toward the other fingers
- Move your index finger until it touches your thumb and makes an O shape
- Hold it for 30 seconds
- Repeat the movement with each finger 10 times in each hand
- Hold the palm of your hand in your direction with the fingers straight
- Bend the fingers towards the base of each finger until your hand resembles a claw
- Keep this position for 60 seconds and repeat four times in each hand
- Start with the thumb positioned outward
- Move it across the palm and back to the starting position
Arthritis can reduce the movement of your hand, arm, and neck. You can have joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Hand therapy can be a part of your arthritis management plan, in addition to medical care. A well-designed exercise program can allow you to prevent or decrease pain in your hands while increasing the range of motion that you have. Your therapist can assist you in developing an appropriate program. It is important that within the limits of your capability, you carry out these exercises correctly and not strain the joints in your hands further.