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What is Hand Physiotherapy?

Mar 04 2019 By Corine Roxanne Gaelle Geukens - Hand Physiotherapist

Hand physiotherapy, otherwise known as hand therapy, is a non-surgical rehabilitation process performed by physical or occupational therapists to manage hand disorders and injuries. Hand physiotherapy involves the use of different physical methods, including exercise, wound care, and splinting. This rehabilitation technique is applied to the hands and other upper extremity parts, including the arm, shoulders, wrist, forearm, and elbow.

How is Hand Physiotherapy Beneficial?

 
It is a technique that helps patients to quicken their return to a normal functioning and productive lifestyle. Patients who qualify for hand physiotherapy are those that have been involved in accidents that have left them with scars, wounds, injured tendons and nerves, burns, fractures, or even amputated arms, hands or fingers. Patients suffering from medical conditions such as arthritis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and neurological conditions such as stroke are also eligible for hand physiotherapy.
 
Hand physiotherapy plays an important role in the recovery of hand or wrist injuries without the need for surgery. What’s more, this procedure is incorporated in hand surgical operations and is also used to help patients recover from hand surgeries. Hand physiotherapy also helps relieve any pain, whether recent or long-lasting.
 
What’s more, hand physiotherapy helps patients overcome nerve injuries and learn how to feel again. It doesn’t stop at this, as it also helps reduce the sensitivity that comes with nerve problems. Since it is centered on exercise, it helps individuals with the movement and strength of the wrists and other parts of the upper extremity. Splinting is also part of hand physiotherapy, and it is vital in eliminating stiffness. With most of these ailments and abnormalities eliminated, individuals can easily carry out their daily duties and activities.
 
What can you expect after hand physiotherapy? Well, after hand therapy, patients experience less pain, as earlier mentioned. In cases of swelling, patients will observe that there is reduced swelling. Hand physiotherapy also takes into account any scars and wounds of a patient and helps manage them.
 
After hand physiotherapy sessions, patients are also expected to experience improved mobility of the hands, wrists, and fingers. All these results are expected after hand physiotherapy since it is aimed at strengthening the muscles and restoring the normal functioning of the hands.
 

Hand Physiotherapy Intervention Techniques

Hand physiotherapy encompasses different techniques and procedures. Some of those include:
 

Splinting

Splints are fabricated from neoprene, thermoplastic or plaster of Paris. What splinting does is to offer a costumed way or design of protecting an injury to commence and hasten healing. Splinting is also used in relieving painful joints, enhance natural movement, prevent deformity, and restore the functional state of the hand. Hand therapists will always advise patients accordingly and provide a splint where necessary after clinical assessments.
 

Exercises

Exercises are vital to the rehabilitation process after injuries. They are equally important rehabilitation post-surgery and are a vital part of hand physiotherapy. Exercises involving the hands and fingers are important in restoring the full function and strength of hands and other parts such as the shoulders. Some of the most common exercises carried out for patients who are recovering from injuries or surgery include:
  • Tight Fist. This hand physiotherapy exercise is done by bending the fingers as if to grip onto something as tight as you can. After holding for a few seconds, the patients should then release and spread the fingers far apart. The exercise can also be done by gripping a ball or crumbling a piece of paper.
  • Finger Bend. During hand physiotherapy, this exercise is aimed at improving muscle strength and enhancing motion. The exercise involves the bending of fingers at the knuckles, straightening them and repeating the procedure
  • Finger to Finger Exercise. With this one, use your thumb and your index finger to form an “O.” Repeat the procedure using all the other fingers and the thumb.
  • Thumb Bend. For this hand physiotherapy exercise, straighten your fingers and get them close together. Move the thumb towards the pinky finger and touch its base using the thumb.
  • Finger Tap. This one involves using all your fingers to tap on a flat surface. Start with the thumb and repeat the exercise for all the other fingers.

Wound Care

Hand physiotherapy also involves therapy specialists that are skilled in wound care. This technique is meant to reduce the severity and pain caused by wounds. It involves cleaning, disinfecting, dressing, suture removal, professional advice on wound management and scar massage in order to keep the tissues softness. Wound care is crucial in the recovery process of a patient as it reduces the risk of infection, therefore, facilitating healing.
 

Manual Therapy

These are techniques of hand physiotherapy that are aimed at improving mobility, reduce swelling, and boost the overall functioning of the hands. These techniques also feature oedema management. This technique is meant to manage swellings on the hands, which may occur post-surgery or injury. With proper oedema management, patients overcome difficulties in movement as well as improve the functioning of the hand.
 

Professional Assessment and Advice

Injuries to the hands and other parts of the upper extremity can affect the way we go about our daily activities, including our work duties and leisure activities. Hand physiotherapy also involves advice from therapists on how to return to such duties throughout their recovery period. Following the hand physiotherapy sessions, professionals can advise patients to keep off some of the daily activities depending on the severity of the injury.
 

Scar Management

The natural healing of wounds results in scar tissue. Scarring of the hand can reduce its functioning, create pain, and even loss of sensitivity. Hand physiotherapy plays a vital role in reducing the pain that a patient may experience due to scars. Further, hand physiotherapists assess patients’ scars and advise how to care for the scar adequately.
Other techniques of hand physiotherapy include acupuncture, where therapists insert fine needles into the ailing parts. Hydrotherapy is also incorporated into hand physiotherapy, where exercises are performed in warm water to relax joints and muscles.
 

Hand Physiotherapy - Conclusion

Hand physiotherapy is vital in restoring the normal functioning of the hands and other related parts. Lately, hand physiotherapy has been incorporated into hand surgery overall processes and has proven to be essential in the recovery from injury and surgery. With all the outlined techniques of hand physiotherapy, patients can rely on this non-surgical rehabilitation process for injury recovery.
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