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Hand Therapy

Treating the hand, wrist, arm and fingers

What Is Hand Therapy?

Hand therapy is the treatment of medical conditions related to the upper extremities: your arms, hands, and fingers. At North 49 Physical Therapy in Saskatoon, SK, we can evaluate and treat your hand problems with non-surgical physical therapy that can decrease your pain and increase your ability to move.

Hand therapy is the treatment of medical problems related to the arms, hands, wrists and fingers. Hand therapists are specialized professionals who understand the mechanics of the hand and arms and are specifically trained to help with preventative care, non-surgical treatments, increased mobility, and pain management in these areas.

You may want to visit a hand therapist in Saskatoon if you are experiencing problems with your hands or arms and are interested in exploring non-surgical treatments.

Hand Therapy in Saskatoon

Conditions Treated at North 49 Physical Therapy 

Arthritis

Arthritis is caused by inflammation in your joints and can lead to pain, especially in the wrist and fingers. If you suffer from arthritis, a hand therapist will be able to give you exercises to treat the pain and your ability to move your hands again.

Elbow and Wrist Fractures

Broken elbows are wrists are painful conditions that can be difficult to treat because of their location.

Ulnar-Sided Wrist Pain

This is pain that stems from the side of the wrist near the pinkie finger. It is usually caused by an injury.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is inflammation that occurs in the tendons of the elbow. It is usually caused by excessive elbow movement or injury.

Trigger Finger

If one of your fingers snaps into a bent position and cannot be unbent, you have trigger finger or stenosing tenosynovitis. This is usually caused by repetitive motions of the finger.

PIP/DIP

These are Interphalangeal joints in the fingers that can become inflamed and painful. The DIP joints are located at the top of the fingers, and the PIP joints are located in the middle of the fingers. When these joints are inflamed, moving them can be painful or impossible.

Sprains

These are Interphalangeal joints in the fingers that can become inflamed and painful. The DIP joints are located at the top of the fingers, and the PIP joints are located in the middle of the fingers. When these joints are inflamed, moving them can be painful or impossible.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome, also called median nerve compression, is nerve pressure that can cause weakness in your hand. You might also feel numbness or a tingling sensation.

Certain Chronic Conditions

Some chronic conditions can cause pain or problems in the arms and hands. These include diabetes, certain neurological conditions, and some autoimmune diseases.

Lack of Movement After Surgery

Surgeries can often cause a need for physical therapy to help the patient learn to properly use limbs and joints after they have been replaced or repaired.

Types of Physiotherapy Treatment for Hands and Wrists

The hand therapist will suggest exercises that are specifically customized for your injuries or condition. These will often include movements for strengthening muscles and tendons as well as increasing the range of motion in joints.

This is a hands-on therapy where the therapist physically manipulates the part of the body that needs treatment. It may include repeated motions or massage. It can also involve steadying the joint while the body is moved around it.

Compression therapy is using a tool to apply pressure to certain veins in the body. This helps to increase the blood flow in the area and can have a stimulating effect on the nerves.

This is an electric stimulation that can cause help with pain as well as trigger the muscles and other body parts to move smoothly and properly. It is typically done by placing electrodes on the skin and then using short bursts of light electricity as stimulation.

Desensitization in hand therapy involves applying pressure or a stimulus to the affected area in order for the body to get used to and adapt to the stimulus. It is typically used as a way of managing pain.

The therapist may use heat to ease the pain in the joints of other parts of the arms and hand. Heat may also allow the body to move more fluidly. Heat can be applied through electrical means, hot water, or even through a laser. Heat therapy wraps are often used in this type of treatment.

In some cases, the therapist may suggest modifications to equipment that will make them more ergonomically useful to the patient. Examples of this might be a raised keyboard or a specially positioned chair. These changes can take the pressure off the part of the body needing treatment and allow the condition to ease.

The therapist may also suggest adaptive techniques the patient can use to ease pain or pressure. This can include using different muscles to perform everyday tasks or using tools that allow the patient to avoid bending or twisting.

The therapist may also teach the patient special techniques that are designed to protect the joint from damage or injury. The patient may be taught to use the joint differently or use the body differently in order to remove pressure or contact on the area that is hurting.

The therapist may come up with a pain management plan for the patient. This could include exercises and tools for relieving pain and possibly the use of pain medication as well as techniques that include applying heat or cold to the affected area. This may also involve massage or other pain-reducing techniques.

When a prosthetic device is used to replace a missing limb or body part, a therapist will teach the patient how to use the new addition. This usually also includes strengthening the muscles around the prosthesis so it will work more effectively.

When there are wounds in the hands or arm that need to be healed, a hand therapist can help create a plan for fast and efficient healing. This may include antibiotics and measures that should be taken to reduce the risk of infection. It may also include instructions on keeping the wound clean and bandaged. If heat or cold should be applied to aid in healing, the therapist will help with this as well.

After suffering from an injury or having a surgical procedure, the patient may need to be retrained in tasks related to work. There may be adaptive techniques that need to be used or other changes that must be made. The hand therapist can suggest these changes and help the patient understand them.

Benefits of Visiting a Hand Therapist

A hand therapist has the background and training to give you an accurate diagnosis of what is happening with your upper extremities. Sometimes, the symptoms you are experiencing are caused by issues that a trained therapist will be able to diagnose. Seeing someone who specializes in this area is helpful in knowing exactly what you are dealing with. A hand therapist may know the techniques and activities that can allow you to avoid having to go through surgery. Another benefit is reduction in pain and discomfort. It’s a therapist’s job is to reduce patient pain as much as possible.

If you are having problems related to your upper extremities from the shoulder to the fingertips, a hand therapist may be able to help. Contact North 49 Physical Therapy in Saskatoon, SK to schedule an evaluation so you can get back to doing the things you love.

Book an appointment with physiotherapist Cathy Sajtos

Hand therapist using a measuring tool to determine wrist range of mobility.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should I see a Certified Hand Therapist?

A hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who, through advanced study and experience, specializes in treating individuals with conditions affecting the hands and upper extremity.

A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat any problem related to the upper extremity. The hand therapist can effectively treat and rehabilitate the patient through post-operative rehabilitation, preventative, non-operative or conservative treatment or industry consultation. The therapist works closely with the physician and patient to provide a continuum of care. This often starts within days of the injury or surgery right through the patient’s return to work and/or a productive lifestyle.

A hand therapist may also have advanced certification as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT).

What's the difference between a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) and a Physiotherapist?

Physical therapists (PT) have graduated from an accredited Physiotherapy program, passed a national exam and are licensed to practice in the province in which they work. PTs can practice in any specialty area of their professions, such as general rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, head injury, orthopedics, pediatrics, geriatrics or hand therapy.

A CHT is an Occupational Therapist or PT by profession with at least three years of experience, plus 4,000 hours of hand and upper extremity therapy practice (upper extremity rehabilitation). A CHT must have passed a certification examination that demonstrates knowledge of all areas of hand and upper extremity therapy before being granted the right to use the CHT designation. Hand therapists must renew their credential every five years through continued education and participation in hand and upper extremity therapy to continue using the CHT designation.

What Can a Hand Therapist Do for Me?

Hand therapists bridge the gap from medical management of upper extremity conditions to successful recovery, allowing individuals to function normally in their daily lives.

Hand therapists provide non-operative interventions, preventative care and post-surgical rehabilitation for a wide variety of upper extremity disorders, from simple fingertip injuries to complex replanted extremities. Patients with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, or neurologic conditions, such as a stroke, can benefit from hand therapy through education on joint protection and energy conservation, and with recommendations for adaptive equipment or devices to improve function.

A hand therapist employs a variety of techniques and tools, including activity and exercise programs, custom orthosis fabrication, management of pain, swelling, wounds and scar. A hand therapist can also be a consultant in the industrial world, training employees in healthy work habits.

What can a hand therapist do for my osteoarthritis?

A hand therapist is a great resource in the treatment of hand osteoarthritis. The main goal in hand therapy is to decrease pain and improve hand function. A hand therapist may suggest using heat to decrease joint stiffness and pain. A splint or brace may be used to provide rest and proper positioning to painful joints. A hand therapist will provide instruction in the use of adaptive equipment and also provide a specialized home program to protect the joints, decrease joint stiffness and improve the ability to use the hand.

What is the Difference Between a Splint and a Brace?

A splint or brace is a device used to support or hold a body part still after an injury or surgery. While the words may be used interchangeably, in general, a brace is meant to support an injured area, while a splint is commonly used to immobilize an injured body...

What is de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. It occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated or constricted. The word "tendinosis" refers to a swelling of the tendons. Swelling of the...

What is Trigger Finger? A hand therapist explains

Trigger finger is when one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.   What causes trigger finger? Each of the tendons which flex your fingers passes through a tunnel in...

What is Hand Therapy, and Will It Help Me?

Hand therapy is the treatment of medical conditions related to the upper extremities, which includes your arms, hands, and fingers. At North 49 Physical Therapy in Saskatoon, SK, we can evaluate and treat your hand problems with non-surgical physiotherapy that can...

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