Q: What is occupational therapy (OT)?
A: OT focuses on helping people perform the day-to-day tasks, which is called “human occupation,” that sustain them in life and enable them to work and contribute to the community. OT provides opportunities to perform activities that are important and meaningful to your life and health, including but not limited to work activities.
Q: What is OT assessment?
A: It assesses a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL) and other daily tasks, such as the ability to use their hands at work and play. This includes basic activities such as using a pen, utensils or tools, as well as the ability to prepare meals and perform household chores such as vacuuming, yard work, combing hair and fastening buttons.
Q: Do I need occupational therapy?
A: If you have an accident, injury, disease or condition that makes it difficult for you to perform your daily activities, you need OT. For example, if you injure your wrist, getting dressed in the morning can be painful. If you have arthritis, driving a car may be difficult or impossible. OT allows you to perform the activities you want and need to do.
Q: What exactly does an occupational therapist do?
A: We assess the unique aspects of your condition or injury and develop a rehabilitation program that is individualized specifically to you. It’s the art and science of rehabilitating the entire upper extremity – shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand – to restore function. We use a variety of rehab techniques and modalities, including manual therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, biofeedback, myofascial release, therapeutic massage, trigger point therapy, custom splinting and kinesiotaping. We can help patients overcome pain and lost function while reducing their risks of future injury.
Q: What does a hand occupational therapist do?
A: Your hands are important to everything you do – work, sports, hobbies and simple activities of daily living. Whether you have a hand injury or you’re recovering from hand surgery, what you want most is successful recovery and as complete a return to function as possible. Our certified and specialized hand therapists provide advanced care designed to get you functioning again, whether you suffer from trigger finger, a crush-type injury, fracture, contracture, tendon laceration or carpal tunnel syndrome. We will tailor a treatment program for your specific post-injury or postsurgical challenges and lifestyle needs.
Q: What conditions do hand occupational therapists treat?
A: We treat many conditions, including arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, hand and wrist injuries, shoulder and elbow injuries and sports injuries. We also treat postoperative conditions of the hand and upper extremity as well as anything that prevents you from performing your daily activities, sports or work.
Q: How long are occupational therapy sessions?
A: Occupational therapy sessions are typically 30 to 60 minutes or longer depending on the individual, the condition and the treatments being performed.
Q: What is the best brace for carpal tunnel?
A: The best brace is one that comfortably supports and positions your wrist to prevent compression against the nerve in the wrist area. Wrist braces come in a wide variety of styles and price points, from $15 up to nearly $300 each. The Wellgate PerfectFit Wrist Support is one example of a very highly rated product and only costs $15 at Walmart. Your occupational therapist can advise you about other options. The best splints are the ones that are custom-made by an OT, specifically for you.
Q: Why do wrist braces help carpal tunnel?
A: They support, compress and position your wrist properly while you are using the hand or while you are asleep. People with carpal tunnel syndrome can see measurable improvement of their symptoms and regained function after six weeks of wrist-splint and therapy. Numbness typically goes away after about three months. Wearing a wrist brace full-time provides dramatic improvements for carpal tunnel sufferers. Patients should strive to wear their splints as often and for as long as possible.
Q: Should I wear a wrist brace after carpal tunnel surgery?
A: Yes, for about six weeks to support healing and return to function.
Q: What will happen if carpal tunnel syndrome is not treated?
A: Left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause pain in your wrist, weakness and lost coordination in your fingers and thumb. Treatment is the only way to relieve pressure on the median nerve and, in most cases, eliminate your symptoms.
Q: How should I sleep with carpal tunnel?
A: If you are like most people, you bend your wrists during sleep, which puts pressure on the median nerve. A support brace can help because it maintains your wrist in a straight, neutral position. Clinical research has shown that using a wrist brace at night does more to relieve carpal tunnel symptoms than using no treatment at all.
Q: How can I relieve my shoulder pain?
A: There are a variety of ways you can relieve your shoulder pain at home. They include anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, cold compresses or heat therapy, compression, activity modification and special exercises to strengthen your shoulder and trunk.
Q: What is the best treatment for tendonitis?
A: In most cases, you can treat tendonitis or bursitis at home using ice packs, rest and OTC anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen. You can avoid the motion that originally caused your pain and modify the activities that cause your pain. Tendonitis and bursitis often affect the rotator cuff of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. You can also get tendonitis of the fingers. If these home therapies do not help after four to six weeks, or your condition gets worse, an occupational/hand therapist can help and possibly even help you avoid surgery. We use phonophoresis, an ultrasound technique that helps anti-inflammatory creams absorb into your skin, or iontophoresis, which uses electrical stimulation to help anti-inflammatory cream penetrate your skin for relief. There are also braces or splints that can be used to help reduce symptoms associated with tendonitis.
Q: Will tendonitis heal on its own?
A: In most cases, yes, as long as you follow your home therapy routine.
Q: What happens if tendonitis goes untreated?
A: Untreated tendonitis can become a chronic condition that leads to weakening of the tendon, which is called tendinosis or tendinopathy, rupture of the tendon and permanent damage. A ruptured tendon will likely require surgical repair.