Certified Hand Therapists Treat More Than Hands! Your Complete Guide to Upper Extremity Rehab
December 11th, 2019
Have you been experiencing a loss of sensation in part of one or both of your arms? Perhaps you’re recovering from a hand or arm injury? If you’re facing either scenario then it may be time to seek out a certified hand therapist.
Hand therapy isn’t the same as getting a massage—it’s a type of specialized treatment that can help those who are suffering from nerve or soft tissue trauma to regain their normal range of motion and strength.
To learn more about rehab for hands and upper extremities as well as how to keep your nerves as healthy as possible, keep reading.
Conditions that Affect the Upper Extremity
The area of the body referred to as the upper extremity houses the many nerves that run between your fingertips and shoulders. These are, of course, the nerves responsible for signaling to the brain for movement, sensation, reflexes, and pain.
Injuries, diseases, and other disorders are all things that can affect the nerves in your hands and upper extremities—which ultimately affects your range of motion and how you perform your daily tasks.
Injuries that may occur in your life can cause trauma to your nerves. In some cases, this trauma may be temporary bruising of certain nerves that can heal on its own. In other cases, the trauma can be more severe, requiring occupational or physical therapy sessions with a Certified Hand Specialist.
Accidents aren’t the only thing that can cause nerve trauma. There are several conditions that can contribute to upper extremity nerve issues. Some of those conditions are:
- Arthritis/Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Neurological conditions, such as a stroke
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
- Dupuytren’s Contracture
- DeQuirvain’s Tendonitis
- Elbow Bursitis
- Flexor Tendon
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Tennis Elbow
- Pitcher’s Elbow
- Ganglion Cysts
- Trigger Finger
There are many health issues such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Cancer, and Lupus to name a few, which can cause nerve damage as well. Your nerves are so delicate that they can become damaged by stretching incorrectly, too much pressure, or even a cut.
Symptoms of Nerve Injuries in Your Upper Body
Symptoms of nerve trauma or damage typically occur post-injury to the neck shoulders, arms or hands. The range of injurious would include damaged tendons, burns, wounds that lead to scarring, fractures, and amputations. You may even experience certain symptoms after laying on one arm for an extended period of time.
The most common symptoms of nerve injuries include:
- Numbness in your upper extremities and/or hands
- The loss of movement in one of your upper extremities and/or hands
- The loss of the range of motion in one or both arms
- Wrist drop—the inability to move your wrist to its fullest capacity
- The loss of muscle tone in one or more parts of the arm
- A change in the pattern of sweat in the hand, forearm, or upper arm
As mentioned earlier, sometimes nerve trauma that causes temporary bruising will heal on its own. For other mild to severe injuries, surgery and/or rehabilitation are most likely needed. For example, an injury could cause broken nerve fibers or cut nerves. In the case of broken nerves, the need for surgery will depend on the severity of the injury while a cut nerve will always require surgery.
Rehab for Your Hands and Upper Extremities
After an injury or surgery, your nerves can take several months to over a year to grow back. During this time, the signaling between your brain and body becomes altered or almost non-existent. This is where a hand rehabilitation specialist comes in.
The purpose of hand therapy is to treat the strength and range of motion from your hands to shoulders, and every joint and muscle in between. So, what does rehab for hands and upper extremities entail?
- Education on injury avoidance
- Soft tissue procedures
- Joint movement
- Exercises for range of motion
- Exercises for dexterity
- Pain management
- Strength and conditioning exercises
- Nerve desensitization
- Sensory re-education
- Electrical stimulation
- Work preparation
- Adaptive self-care
A certified hand therapist should be able to evaluate your nerve trauma and pain history to create a customized treatment program based on your health and individual needs. He or she will provide continuous therapy within the appropriate amount of time following an injury or surgery. from there they will track your progress, making sure you are improving with each session, therefore minimizing your recovery time.
Aside from getting you back to your normal routine, the point of rehab is to lessen any pain you’re experiencing. With that said, it’s important to note that after certain exercises involving working atrophied muscles as well as stretching can cause soreness after your sessions. Any soreness should lessen within a day or two—any prolonged discomfort should be discussed with your specialist to ensure that you don’t further injure yourself.
Hand and Arm Health: the Dos and Don’ts
As mentioned above, part of your hand and upper extremity rehabilitation will include injury avoidance education.
Here are the dos and don’ts of hand and arm health:
- DO take breaks when using your hands for an extended period of time
- DO keep your hands or wrists moving
- DO take the time to exercise your hands and arms regularly
- DO keep your wrist in a neutral position
- DO maintain good posture—avoid slumped over shoulders
- DON’T use the same hand for the same tasks repeatedly—switch it up
- DON’T use unnecessary force when gripping a tool or typing at your desk
- DON’T avoid any of the symptoms of nerve issues
- DON’T wait too long to see a specialist
Even if you don’t have an injury or nerve trauma, you still need to take care of yourself to prevent any nerve issues that come with certain repetitive motions or the natural aging process.
Find Your Certified Hand Therapist Today
The right certified hand therapist will have you gaining your full range of motion and strength back in no time. Get the results you want by scheduling an appointment today.