Understanding Hand Therapy: Equipment, Injury, Treatment
The human hand is one of the most unique and versatile parts of the body.
When we cannot see, our hands help us read. When we cannot talk, we use our hands to speak. Our hands help us to manipulate, to create, and to express beyond words through art, drama, dance, and self-expression. But when our hands are damaged, injured, or hurt, where do we turn?
The answer is hand therapy. Through testing, assessment, and evaluation, hand therapists can create a custom treatment to assist you with hand and upper limb injuries. Despite the name, hand therapists treat the entire arm, from the hand all the way to the shoulder.
Want to learn more about hand therapy? To assist you, we’re going to explain more about hand therapy practitioners, what they treat, and some of the equipment they might use along the way
“There’s No Such Thing as a Hand Therapist?” The People Who Perform Hand Therapy
Osteopathy is practised by Osteopaths and optometry is practised by Optometrists. So who practices hand therapy?
Hand therapy is practised by both registered Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists. Professionals in these fields who take an interest in upper limb conditions can pursue further education, study, and clinical training.
These professionals can also join the Australian Hand Therapy Association, which is the professional body for hand therapy practitioners in Australia. AHTA members can pursue further education and professional development through the association.
Just like other medical professionals, hand therapy practitioners work closely with the wider medical community, including surgeons, psychologists, rheumatologists, and general practitioners.
What Does Hand Therapy Treat?
Hand therapy provides specialised care to treat patients with hand problems as well as issues all the way up to the shoulder. This could include trauma injuries, repetitive motion injuries, and contact injuries. Hand therapy practitioners also assist with arm and hand rehabilitation, helping the patient to restore movement, manage pain, and improve function.
Some of the hand and arm conditions a hand therapy practitioner can assist you with include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: To alleviate pressure on the nerve and associated symptoms
- Bursitis: Retraining the shoulder blade muscles for symptom relief
- De Quervain’s syndrome: Activity modification and education to reduce thumb and forearm pain
- Fractures: Treatment through splints, casts, and functional rehabilitation
- Joint instability: Exercise programs to strengthen joints, as well as splints for support
- Nerve injuries: Treatments include manual therapy, exercises, and activity modification
- Tennis elbow: Treatments include manual therapy, massage, strengthening, and possible surgery
- Replantation and amputations: Improve function and movement after reconstruction or amputation surgery
- Wound management: Treatment to improve the function, appearance, and healing of wounds and scars
How Else Can a Hand Therapy Practitioner Assist Me?
The conditions mentioned above are just some of the hand and arm complaints that can be treated through hand therapy. Another useful way to look at hand therapy is to examine the many practical ways it can assist you.
For example, hand therapy can help to treat sports injuries, as well as providing management for arthritis in the hand, wrist, and arm. Hand therapy can encompass pain management, home visits, telehealth appointments, and return to work services.
Hand therapists can treat relevant chronic health conditions and in some cases, this treatment can be partially funded by Medicare. Some hand therapy practitioners may also be NDIS approved.
What Tools and Techniques Are Used in Hand Therapy?
Depending on the nature of your condition, your hand therapy practitioner may utilise a range of specialised techniques to assist you. These include but are not limited to:
- Thermoplastic splints
- Braces and casts
- Manual therapy and physical therapy
- Exercise programs, education, and lifestyle recommendations
Other hand therapy equipment, tools, and techniques include:
- Hand therapy equipment for strength training and stretching
- Hot and cold therapy
- Aids for grip strengthening and ergonomic hand exercise
- Devices used by therapists for trigger point pressure application
- Hand therapy equipment for deep tissue massage
- Aids to assist with rehab and strengthening of the hand, wrist, finger, and arm
- Hydrotherapy equipment
- PVC foam balls for pressure point stimulation and grip
- Hand therapy equipment to stabilise and support parts of the hand
Visiting a Hand Therapy Practitioner
If you think hand therapy might be right for you, the best place to start is with a qualified Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist. Look for a practitioner in either of these professions that specialises in hand therapy.
Generally speaking, you do not need a referral to visit the hand therapist, although you may need to visit a GP first if you are claiming through WorkSafe or a similar body.If your practitioner prescribes you an exercise or rehabilitation program, you may need some hand therapy equipment at home. This could range from foam balls to hand strengthening equipment.
You can purchase affordable rehabilitation equipment, allied health products, and occupational therapy supplies online. With the right supplier, you can source the products you need with next-day dispatch and complete peace of mind. You might need aids for daily living and home exercise, or new clinical equipment as a hand therapy practitioner. Either way, with a trusted provider on your side, you can access everything you need.