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Hand Therapy As an Adjunctive Treatment to Orthopedics

by Stella Robinson

Orthopedic intervention is invaluable for many hand conditions, but even in the early stages of problems, hand therapy should be recommended as a way to prevent or delay surgery or to have better post-surgical outcomes. If you are dealing with orthopedic conditions that affect the hands, there are several advantages to including hand therapy.

Specialized Type of Physical Therapy

Although physical therapy is an important component of rehabilitation for many orthopedic conditions, you may have better results with specialized therapy. Since the hands have numerous small joints and are highly sensitive structures, delicate maneuvers can be essential to preserving and restoring hand function. Specialized therapy is performed by a certified hand therapist (CHT), who has additional training beyond physical or occupational therapy training. CHTs often work closely with orthopedic specialists, and this may allow them to begin therapy even before patients are discharged from the hospital after a procedure.

Delay Progression of Conditions

Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can dramatically affect the hands. RA often results in increasing deformities and other limitations. Ideally, hand therapy should be part of your treatment plan when deformities start. This can delay deformities from becoming fixed, meaning they are permanent. Preventative measures may include splinting the fingers to prevent fixation of the joints, with intermittent exercises to reduce stiffness. Since surgery to repair deformities is a treatment of last resort, especially with RA, it is best to address changes and limitations when they are in the early stages. For some people, a combination of medications to control the disease process and hand therapy can reduce the instance of disability.

Improved Recovery After Surgery

Surgery to correct deformities, alleviate pain from arthritic joints, or repair damaged soft tissues may require rigorous post-operative therapy to reduce the formation of scar tissues and improve mobility and functionality of a joint. In some cases, hand therapy can be critical for encouraging nerve regeneration if there was compression or damage to nerves leading to the hands. With regular, strategic hand exercises, some people can regain strength and use of their hands even after nerve damage. Another benefit of hand therapy after surgery is when the hands must be immobilized after surgery. This can cause muscle atrophy during the healing process. Once the cast or splint is removed, patients can begin rebuilding the strength in their hands with therapy.

When you are dealing with an orthopedic condition affecting your hands, it is in your best interest to ask your doctor about preventative or rehabilitative therapy options. Although physical therapy is important, ask your doctor about available options for therapy with a CHT.

Visit sites such as http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com to learn more.