3D printing technology is on the rise, and there is increased use by professionals and laypersons. Someday soon, this amazing technology will give hand therapists a remarkable tool to make “in-house” assistive devices, hand exercise equipment, therapy tools, orthotic components and orthoses (formerly termed “splints”), and more.
What are 3D printers and how do they work?
There are different types of 3D printers that use various processes to create objects. The most common type of 3D printer in the consumer market uses plastic filament with a price range of about $500 to $4,000 (Figure 1). Think of it as a highly sophisticated hot glue gun, which melts plastic filament and deposits it in layers from the bottom up to form an object (like building a brick wall). A digital file provides the “virtual blueprint” for instructing a 3D printer where to lay the plastic to form an object. These digital files are created by persons with skill in using computer design/modeling software or from scans of objects (using scanning technologies and even data from MRI or CT scans).
Certified hand therapist Michelle McMurray, MOT, OTR/L, CHT discusses how you can save your joints while performing daily activities.
Sometimes it is our small, every day activities in our daily routines that we overlook. As we get busy with our daily lives, sometimes we are not aware of the little things that we do that can ultimately add up to big problems. We hear about many things that we can do to protect our joints, but in the business of daily lives we forget about ourselves…and our joints.
Here are some examples of some basic tasks we do all the time that can eventually lead to bigger problems:
When scrubbing carpet to remove a stain, it is very common that we pinch the cloth and apply pressure. A big problem that can occur if you happen to quickly catch the end of your finger is a mallet finger. This is an injury that leaves a droop at the end of the finger. The rehab process can be long and tedious. The easiest way to avoid this is to grip the rag with a fist or use a brush with a handle.
With technology, we do not write as much as we did in the past. In that case, we are sometimes hurried when doing this activity, which may lead to increased pressure and gripping on the writing utensil. One thing that can help to decrease the pressure on the thumb is increasing the diameter of the pen/pencil.
I sit at a desk most of the workday, keyboarding. My wrists and elbows are always aching. Is there anything I can do?
If you spend most of your day at a desk, your work station should be evaluated and adjusted to ensure proper positioning and desk posture. Your work station should be set up specifically for you. There are many symptoms that may occur from sitting at a poorly designed work station. These symptoms include fatigue or soreness of wrists, elbows, neck, scapular region and lower back. Eventually, if these signs aren’t addressed, you may start to experience pain or numbness and tingling in these areas. If your work station is shared, it should be adjustable to fit the needs of all who use that workstation.
What should my work station look like?
Proper workstation assessment should include looking at the height of your chair, the type of keyboard and mouse you’re using, and position of your monitor. Proper height of your chair should allow ankles, knees, hips and elbows to rest at 90 degrees.
My neighbor recently had a FOOSH walking on an icy sidewalk, and when she told me she broke her wrist, I was curious about the acronym. Exactly what does a FOOSH mean, and what type of injury occurred?
A FOOSH means a “fall on the outstretched hand,” and the most common injury is a distal radius fracture. This type of fracture involves the end of one of the two long bones in the forearm (see photo). These injuries are more common in females in old age (over 65) due to the higher incidence of osteoporosis.
The advent of the hoverboard has rapidly increased the incidence of wrist fractures in a young person. In fact, hoverboard injuries have increased so rapidly, that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning to users about fall risks. Please watch this brief video to learn more about these injuries and to be aware of precautions if you’re planning to attempt use of these products.
Why do I have pain?
Pain, in its most basic form, is a protective response the body uses to survive. Responses and reactions to pain can vary from person to person. Our brain interprets the signals from our body as either non harmful or harmful (pain). Pain is not always an indicator of damage. For example, recall how painful a paper cut is!
Why has my pain lasted so long?
While pain can be a good, protective response in the body, sometimes our pain experience can last longer or be more intense than a typical pain response to an injury or surgery.
Typically, when we get hurt, say a cut to the finger, our body interprets this as a ‘flight or fight’ response. This response includes increased blood flow, pain, swelling and redness to the area temporarily until the threat passes. This is controlled by something called the sympathetic nervous system. Once the threat passes, the body calms down. As it returns to a normal state, the pain and swelling also decrease.
What is happening to my fingertip? It doesn’t go straight anymore.
If you can’t extend the tip of your finger, you may have what is called a mallet finger. This happens when the end of the tendon that lifts your fingertip becomes separated from the fingertip. There are a few different ways this can happen.
Do I need to do anything about this? Will it heal on its own?
If you have a mallet finger, it needs to be treated; it will not heal on its own. You should consult with your doctor, and possibly a hand surgeon.
A hand surgeon? That sounds serious!
It may be. Sometimes the tendon comes off the fingertip with a portion of the bone – sometimes it only comes partially off. Having a specialist assess it and direct you will ensure you have a good outcome.