Author Archives: the American Society of Hand Therapists

Hand Hand Surgery Hand Therapy

What is a Hand Therapist?

I have been told to see a hand therapist, but am unsure what that means. Who provides “hand therapy”?

A hand therapist is an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) who has specific training and expertise in treating hand and arm conditions. Typically, this person has spent many additional years gaining expertise with hand and arm injuries and treatment. When an OT or PT has reached this higher level of experience, they often become a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT).

So I can see anyone that is a PT, OT or CHT to take care of my problem?

You will want to ensure that the therapist you see, whether it is an OT or a PT, is qualified to treat your condition. If they are a CHT, it means they have had extra training and passed a rigorous exam to demonstrate their skill. If they are an OT or a PT, they may still treat hand and arm conditions, but you should ask questions to ensure they have spent extra time after their formal education learning about the hand and arm. To find a hand therapist near you, click here.

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Baseball Elbow Hand Sports Injury

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Treating Tommy John Injuries

Baseball season is in full swing for the pros. Unfortunately, for many youth baseball players, summer leagues are just one of the year-round seasons they play. A Tommy John injury (injury of the ulnar collateral ligament at the elbow) was unheard of in youth leagues in the mid-90s. By 2010, the adolescent rate was nearly 40 percent. As a baseball enthusiast, I find this trend disturbing. I asked Dr. Bobby Chhabra, Chair of the Orthopedic Department at the University of Virginia, his perception of this epidemic.

“Every year I see more and more adolescent elbow injuries from pitching and throwing. These injuries vary across a spectrum from little leaguer’s elbow, to muscle strains, to UCL injuries (Tommy John), and cartilage injuries. I would agree that the adolescent rate is increasing and the trend shows that this group may soon reach half of all surgeries performed to repair a Tommy John injury. 

The reasons for this are likely multi-factorial but include the increasing number of kids who play one sport and pitch year round from a young age, have poor mechanics, have fatigue leading to poor mechanics and injury, and have overuse with minimal rest.  

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Hand Musician Pain

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist for Musicians

©furtseff/fotolia

“…the instrument becomes an extension of the body, for example, the bow of the violinist or the drumsticks of the drummer.” – Schlinger, 2006.

Many musicians say they “merge” with their instrument when they are playing – that they lose themselves and do not know where they stop and the instrument begins. This process leads to beautiful music; however, it can lead to less body awareness, pain and overuse injuries related to playing their instrument.

Statistics estimate more than 39,000 people are formally employed as musicians in the United States. This does not include the large numbers of children and teenagers just starting out, or devoted amateur and professional musicians playing night and weekend shows. Among this large number of musicians, studies have shown that the percentage who report having play-related pain may actually be higher than in other professions. In some groups, more than 90% of musicians surveyed reported having some type of pain.

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Hand Hand Therapy Mirror Therapy Pain

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Mirror Therapy for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain that does not respond to conventional treatment can be frustrating for both the person with the pain and the team of people trying to help alleviate the pain. You may have heard of mirror therapy, but are unsure of what it is or who can benefit. To answer these questions, I consulted Susan Stralka, PT, DPT, MS. Susan has many years of experience treating patients with chronic pain and has lectured around the world on this topic.

What is mirror therapy?

Mirror therapy is a rehabilitation technique that uses the mirror image of a non-painful limb to retrain the brain about its perception of a painful limb. The non-painful limb (such as a hand or foot) is placed in front of a mirror and the painful limb is placed behind the mirror out of sight.

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Hand Therapy Joint Pain Joints

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Techniques to Reduce Joint Pain

For this post, we are sharing a video that demonstrates many techniques you can use on a daily basis to protect your joints. In past posts, we’ve discussed joint protection and gave some examples and illustrations of this. (See Protecting Your Joints and Living With(out) Thumb Pain.)

The video below shows some of those examples in action. The video has no sound, so don’t worry about turning up the volume. As you watch, you will be given some practical pointers. There are some questions in the video, so put on your thinking cap and see what ideas you come up with to take care of your joints.

After watching the video, you may have questions about specific activities and how to make changes to decrease your joint pain. Talking to a certified hand therapist can help you apply these principles to your specific activities, which can help you to keep doing what you want in life.

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Arm Hand Numbness Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Can a T-Shirt Improve Posture and Help Treat Arm Pain?

Are you someone who suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome and has arm pain? Perhaps this special t-shirt is for you!

Arm pain and tingling is a common symptom of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). TOS is a term used to describe compression in the space between the collarbone and the first rib. Other symptoms include numbness in the arm and hand, pain and aches in the neck, shoulder or hand and arm fatigue with activity. While the cause of TOS is compression, the cause of the compression can be due to a number of factors. One common offender is poor posture. The posture that is often associated with TOS is drooping or rounded shoulders and holding the head in a forward position.

TOS is often treated with rehabilitation, medication and sometimes surgery. During rehabilitation treatment, an emphasis is placed on improving posture through exercises, stretches and use of athletic taping techniques. Taping provides support and gentle feedback to guide the shoulder into a better position. A more recent development is a t-shirt that mimics the taping technology and accomplishes a similar effect with greater ease.

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Hand Hand Safety Hand Therapy

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Safety Tips to Avoid Common Holiday Injuries

christmas-lights-cropped

Many of us start our holiday preparations by “making a list and checking it twice!” Suddenly, we are overwhelmed by its length. The fact that baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping and travel all come before December 25 can be dismaying. If this describes your current quandary, please continue to read about how you can have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

The most commonly reported decorating injuries are lacerations, back strains and falls. Luggage-related injuries increased to approximately 75,500 annually, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) reports that holiday hand injuries are caused by carving a turkey, ham or roast and that tendon and nerve injuries are caused during meal cleanup (contact with a sharp knife or a broken glass).

Here are simple holiday tips for ladder safety, luggage transport and meat carving:

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Hand Hand Therapy Posture Stretching

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist – Desk Posture Part II

Rear view of young businesswoman sitting at desk stretching. Copy space

Spending extended periods of time at a workstation places high levels of stress on our body, especially our arms and hands. The more time we spend at our work station, the more our muscles fatigue and gravity pulls our body forward. The result is rounded shoulders and a forward head position. Standing or sitting in a static desk posture throughout the day places a lot of stress on our tendons, nerves and muscles. The nerves in our shoulders and arms can become compressed and irritable, which can result in numbness and tingling in our hands. The muscles at the front of our chest (our pectoralis muscles) become tight and the muscles between our shoulder blades become overstretched. As a result, we can develop painful trigger points in these muscles. Over, time these issues become more difficult to correct.

Here are some simple exercises to help prevent these issues:

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