Hand Therapy Week: Are your hands healthy? | VailDaily.com

Hand Therapy Week: Are your hands healthy?

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily

Special to the Daily

The hand is one of the most complex parts of your body and without them it would be difficult to perform simple routine activities like tying a shoe, turning a car key and typing on a keyboard. No matter what age, whether you are holding a ski pole, tennis racquet or cell phone, you are always using your hands.

Hand therapy is a growing practice in the United State due to hand pain, lack of motion and even lack of grip. Residents of Eagle and Summit Counties are lucky to have several certified hand therapists at Howard Head Sports Medicine clinics throughout the region. Hand therapy is a developing industry, with just 5,600 certified hand therapists in the world. Curious if you need hand therapy? Ask your primary care provider if it's right for you.

Certified hand therapists Kathi Thomson and Andrea Sauer, both of Howard Head Sports Medicine, took the time to answer a few questions.

Vail Daily: Why do people get hand joint pain?

Kathi Thomson and Andrea Sauer: Probably the most common diagnoses causing actual joint pain, is some form of arthritis or wear and tear. This can occur as we age, but also in young, active individuals who have sustained injuries that were not addressed. For example a bad sprain or ligament injury left untreated will cause bones to shift over time — causing abnormal stress on the surrounding joints.

VD: What can you do to relieve hand and joint pain?

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KT and SA: Depending on the causeof pain, different treatments would be appropriate. For example: Splinting or taping to provide needed joint stability, techniques such as ultrasound for inflammation, stretches or gliding exercises for tight muscles and tendons. As hand therapists, we use a wide range of treatments depending on the problems and goals.

VD: What is hand therapy?

KT and SA: Hand therapy is the treatment of hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder conditions. Emphasis is on providing interventions to reduce pain and swelling, prevent dysfunction, prevent progression of injury and restore overall function. Both conservative and post-operative treatment involves implementation of exercise to increase motion, dexterity and/or strength, training in performance of daily activities and conditioning prior to returning to work or sport.

VD: What is a Certified Hand Therapist

KT and SA: A Certified Hand Therapist is an occupational or physical therapist with a minimum of five years clinical experience, at least 4,000 practice hours in hand therapy and successful completion of a comprehensive test of advanced clinical skills. The credential indicates achievement of the highest level of competency and knowledge in upper quarter rehabilitation, knowledge of advanced surgical procedures and post-operative therapy programs.

VD: Is surgery always necessary?

KT and SA: No! A large portion of the practice is working with hand surgeons, however surgery is not always necessary and often, patients are referred to therapy when non-operative treatment is the treatment of choice. There are many injuries and conditions where surgery is necessary and after patients often need therapy to ensure the best possible outcome and return to the desired function.

VD: What should people do if they have hand, wrist or elbow pain?

KT and SA: If someone has hand, wrist or elbow pain they should see a specialist to determine the cause. It is common to dismiss aches and pains or believe it will go away with time; however, it could be a condition that will worsen over time if untreated. With early assessment and intervention it is possible to prevent long term effects of an injury.

VD: Where can I locate a Certified Hand Therapist?

KT and SA: Howard Head Sports Medicine currently has six Certified Hand Therapists in Vail, Edwards, Eagle and Frisco with over 80 years of combined experience. Our hand therapists specialize in both non-operative and post-surgical custom splinting/bracing, kinesiotaping, manual lymphatic drainage, wound care, activity modification, education and therapeutic exercise.

Could hand therapy be right for you?

Ask your primary care doctor. Here are some of the things hand therapy treats.

• Carpal tunnel syndrome

• Fractures of the upper extremity

• DeQuervain’s

• Trigger fingers

• Trauma to tendons

• Burns

• Dupuytren’s contracture

• Dislocations

• Boutonniere deformity

• Fibromyalgia

• Infections

• Nerve compression syndromes (cubital tunnel, carpal tunnel syndrome or thoracic outlet syndrome)

• Amputations and replantations

• Birth defects

• Bursitis

• Tendonitis (tennis elbow, golfers elbow)

• Thoracic outlet syndrome