Author Archives: the American Society of Hand Therapists

Gardening Hand Hand Safety Hand Therapy

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: The Joys of Gardening Without the Risk of Injury

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to not just feed the body but the soul” – Alfred Austin

Gardening is a meaningful activity for people across the lifespan. It can add beauty and nutrition as well as be an outlet for stress relief and a means of exercise. While it has many benefits, it can also be hard work for the muscles and joints of your hands and arms. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you reduce your risk for pain and increase your joy and productivity in the garden.

Tools

Good gardening tools can be especially helpful to reduce risk and pain associated with repetitive use injuries.

  • Tools with built up handles can reduce the grip strength required to perform activities and protect your joints. Wide handled or ergonomic tools may also be available on the internet or in local shops.
  • To build up the handles of your own tools, pipe insulation can be purchased at your local hardware store.
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Finger Hand Jammed Finger Mallet Finger

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: What is a Mallet Finger and How is it Treated?

A mallet finger involves injury to the tendon that straightens the tip of the finger. This type of injury can occur when the tip of the finger is jammed, forcing it to bend quickly and forcefully. Banging the tip of the finger while doing everyday tasks or having a ball hit the end of the finger while playing sports are common ways this injury can occur. The forceful bending causes a tear in the tendon or a small piece of bone can break off along with the tendon.

This injury can cause pain and swelling. Along with the pain and swelling, the tip of the finger rests in a bent position and the person is not able to straighten it. There may be bruising after this type of injury as well.

A mallet finger injury is most often  treated with a small finger splint that keeps the tip of the finger straight. Keeping the tip of the finger straight for up to eight weeks allows the tendon to heal. The small splint can be provided by the doctor or can be custom made by a hand therapist.

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Hand Hand Safety Hand Therapy Snowblower Safety

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Preventing Injuries During Snow Removal

The winter months can be a festive and fun time of year; however, they can also bring many hazards that can lead to hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries. Snow shoveling and removal are strenuous and sometimes risky activities that are necessary in these snowy months, and should be addressed with some simple safety measures to protect yourself from potential injury.

Common safety steps to take when addressing snow removal include:

  • Warm up before tackling snow removal – Doing a short amount of light exercise to warm your body prior to shoveling snow can assist in reducing your risk of injury.
  • Wearing gloves with skid resistant material – One simple strategy to combat the snow is to be sure your gloves and/or mittens have a skid resistant material on the palm and fingers. This will allow you to have adequate grip on your shovel to prevent unnecessary slipping of your equipment.
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Cold Hand Disease Hand Therapy Raynaud's Phenomenon

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Cold Weather Tips for Raynaud’s

Cold weather can bring misery to people with Raynaud’s. Frigid temperatures trigger an abnormal response of constriction (or narrowing) of the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, nose and/or ears interrupting blood flow. As a result, fingers turn white and blue when cold, then bright red when warming and are extremely painful.

If you have Raynaud’s, you are at greater risk for frostbite and may develop sores on the tips of your fingers. You can still enjoy winter activities. Most of the symptoms can be managed with prevention and some lifestyle changes. Here are a few suggestions:

Wear gloves and mittens. Mittens tend to keep hands warmer than fingered gloves. Fingerless gloves with mitten caps are a great option and can also be used indoors as well.

Layer your clothing. Keep your body warm with layers. The Raynaud’s response occurs when the body becomes cold, not just your hands and feet. Wristies® and Limbkeepers® are two products that help with layering.

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Dupuytren's Contracture Finger Hand

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist on Dupuytren’s Contracture

Dupuytren's ContractureDupuytren's ContractureDupuytren's Contracture

Why can’t I straighten my finger?

Dupuytren’s Contracture is a benign disorder of the hand that may result in tightening of the palm and bending of the fingers. When it begins, the palm or finger(s) appear to have bumps and later may develop a rope-y appearance.  It is not usually painful, but in some cases, discomfort is reported. The condition is most common in men (almost 5 to 1 versus women) of Northwestern European descent and onset increases with age (over 40).

The condition usually starts with the first knuckle. If it progresses, the middle knuckle may also bend. The fingers most affected are the ring and small, with possible progression to the long, index and thumb. Early signs of Dupuytren’s Contracture may include the appearance of “pitting/dimpling” in the palm. It may become difficult to place the hand on a flat surface, put on gloves, or put the hand in a pocket.

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Arthritis Hand Hand Therapy Thumb Arthritis

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Surgery for Thumb Arthritis Pain

Thumb arthritis pain can be debilitating, making everyday self-care tasks intolerable. There is a surgical option when other treatments, such as injections and therapy, fail to adequately reduce pain. A carpometacarpal arthroplasty or CMC arthroplasty is a joint replacement procedure for the base of your thumb. It eliminates the grinding and pain felt from the rubbing of bone on bone after the protective cartilage has worn away, usually caused by arthritis.

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding this procedure:

Will I be in a cast?

Yes. You will likely be in a cast for 2-4 weeks. You will also use either a removable orthosis a hand therapist will custom make for you or an off-the-shelf thumb and wrist splint for a month after the cast has been removed. This will help maintain the optimum position of your thumb as you are healing and protect your new thumb joint.

What happens after my thumb has been immobilized?

Any time a joint has been immobilized, it takes time to regain your flexibility. For this surgery, the wrist and thumb are usually quite stiff. Your doctor will likely recommend you see a hand therapist to assist you with regaining the range of motion and strength safely.

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de Quervain's Tenosynovitis Tendonitis Tendons

Advice from a CHT: How to Prevent Tendonitis in New Mothers

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a common, painful inflammation of two tendons that move your thumb.  Most people with de Quervain’s will have pain at their wrist (just below the thumb) that will worsen with thumb or wrist movement. It is most often seen in women, especially in those who have recently had a child or those at the end of pregnancy – usually due to a combination of repetitive movement and an increase in swelling, which naturally occurs during pregnancy; however, all caregivers of young children can be susceptible to this overuse condition.

What can I do to prevent de Quervain’s?

The most important advice is to avoid overuse and repetitive motions of your wrist and thumb. Moving your thumb or wrist from side to side repeatedly (thumb side to little finger side) can provoke symptoms.  Changing the way we do things to rely on stronger, more capable muscles to do a job is helpful.

Specifically for new parents and caregivers, some tips include:

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Food Hand Hand Therapy Knife Safety

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Kitchen Knife Safety

Serious hand injuries can occur during daily activities such as preparing food. Many hand injuries can be prevented with simple adjustments to routines. In preparation for the upcoming fall cooking season, please consider some safe, simple adjustments to your own routine in cutting various food items to prevent knife slips, which can cause injuries to the tendons or the nerves in your hand.

Mangoes

This delicious, yet slippery fruit can be a challenge when it comes to cutting and preparing for serving. The danger arises from removing the outside peel of the fruit. Once this is removed, the fruit center is extremely juicy and becomes difficult to hold. The fruit is also oval-shaped, difficult to place on a cutting board and has a large pit in the center.

Here’s a safe method for preparing mangoes:

  1. Keep the peel intact! Instead, stand the mango on a cutting board with stem side down and cut mango into two large pieces from either side of the pit. Be sure to cut toward a cutting board or solid surface and not the palm of your hand.
  2. Taking the two large pieces with peel side on cutting board, you can use a paring knife to cut cubes or slices of the mango, being sure not to cut through the peel. Again, be certain you are cutting toward a hard surface and not your hand.
  3. Once all your cuts are made, you can begin to peel away the skin of the mango by turning the skin inside out OR you can use a spoon (not anything sharp) and scoop the cut pieces away from the skin of the mango.
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