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Hands & Upper Limbs Rehab Therapy
Oh, those precious hands and upper limbs, oh how they bless us with the ability to do simple things like holding a spoon or typing on a keyboard.
But let’s be real, when those delicate babies get hurt or start acting up, our entire lives can spiral into chaos.
That’s why we have hands and upper limbs rehab therapy, a miracle service that helps us get back to doing the most basic tasks that we often take for granted.
What is Hands and Upper Limbs Rehab Therapy?
Hands and upper limbs rehab therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that focuses on the rehabilitation of the hands, wrists, and upper limbs. The therapy aims to improve the function of the hands and upper limbs and help patients regain their ability to perform everyday activities.
However, hand therapy and upper limb rehab are not exactly the same thing, although they are related.
Hand therapy specifically focuses on the rehabilitation of the hand and wrist. It involves the evaluation, treatment, and prevention of conditions that affect the function of the hand, wrist, and forearm. Hand therapy is often used to treat conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, fractures, and nerve injuries.
Upper limb rehab, on the other hand, is a broader term that refers to the rehabilitation of the entire upper limb, including the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand. Upper limb rehab may include exercises to improve range of motion, strength, and endurance, as well as other interventions such as manual therapy, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound.
While hand therapy is a subset of upper limb rehab, they are not interchangeable terms. Hand therapy is focused specifically on the hand and wrist, while upper limb rehab encompasses the entire upper limb.
How is the therapy carried out?
The therapy involves an initial evaluation to determine the patient’s current level of function and identify any issues or impairments. Based on the evaluation, the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that may include exercises, manual therapy, and other interventions.
Conditions that can be treated with Hands and Upper Limbs Rehab
Hands and upper limbs rehab therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, including:
Carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers.
Tennis elbow – a condition that causes pain and tenderness in the elbow and forearm.
Frozen shoulder – a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint.
Arthritis – a condition that causes joint pain and stiffness, which can affect the hands and upper limbs.
Rotator cuff injuries – a common injury that affects the shoulder joint and can cause pain and weakness.
Tendonitis – a condition that causes inflammation in the tendons, which can affect the hands and upper limbs.
- Stroke – often a common symptom of post stroke event resulting in lost of control of hands and upper limbs
Treatment approaches used in Hands and Upper Limbs Rehab
Hands and upper limbs rehab therapy uses a variety of treatment approaches, including:
Exercise therapy – involves exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
Manual therapy – involves hands-on techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and stretching to improve the function of the hands and upper limbs.
Modalities – involve the use of various physical agents such as heat, cold, and electrical stimulation to reduce pain and promote healing.
Education – involves teaching patients how to perform activities safely and how to prevent future injuries.
Functional training – involves practicing activities that are essential for daily living, such as gripping, reaching, and lifting, to improve function.
Benefits of hands and upper limbs rehab therapy
The benefits of hands and upper limbs rehab therapy are numerous, including:
Improved range of motion and flexibility
Increased strength and endurance
Reduced pain and inflammation
Improved ability to perform daily activities
Prevention of future injuries
Enhanced quality of life
How OTs and PTs are key rehab specialists in this area
Occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs) both play an important role in hands and upper limbs rehab therapy, but their roles and approaches differ in some ways.
Occupational therapists focus on helping patients improve their ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) and other functional tasks. They work with patients to identify activities that are important to them and develop strategies to help them perform those activities more easily. In the context of hands and upper limbs rehab therapy, occupational therapists may focus on activities such as writing, dressing, and cooking, and use interventions such as adaptive equipment, splinting, and activity modification to help patients improve their ability to perform those activities.
Physical therapists, on the other hand, focus on improving the function of the musculoskeletal system. They use exercises, manual therapy, and other interventions to improve strength, range of motion, and endurance. In the context of hands and upper limbs rehab therapy, physical therapists may focus on exercises to improve grip strength or range of motion in the shoulder joint, for example.
In some cases, occupational therapists and physical therapists may work together as part of a multidisciplinary team to provide comprehensive hands and upper limbs rehab therapy. Together, they can address both the functional and physical aspects of rehabilitation to help patients achieve their goals and improve their quality of life.
It’s also worth noting that some occupational therapists have specialized training in hand therapy, which allows them to provide more specialized care for conditions that affect the hands and upper limbs. These occupational therapists, known as certified hand therapists (CHTs), have completed additional education and training in hand therapy and have passed a certification exam. CHTs can provide a range of interventions, including splinting, manual therapy, and exercise therapy, to help patients with hand and upper limb conditions.
“Hand therapy intervention for hand and wrist injuries in adults” (2017) by Keijsers et al. published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Link: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005158.pub3/full
“The effectiveness of hand therapy interventions in reducing impairments and improving function post hand trauma: a systematic review” (2017) by Randall et al. published in the Journal of Hand Therapy. Link: https://www.jhandtherapy.org/article/S0894-1130(16)30136-6/fulltext
“Effectiveness of physical therapy interventions for upper-limb nerve compression syndromes: a systematic review” (2018) by O’Connor et al. published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Link: https://www.archives-pmr.org/article/S0003-9993(17)31501-5/fulltext
“Upper limb rehabilitation after stroke: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials” (2012) by Langhorne et al. published in Clinical Rehabilitation. Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0269215512447102
“Effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions for adults with musculoskeletal conditions of the forearm, wrist, and hand: A systematic review” (2020) by Barreira et al. published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Link: https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=2766778
Lifeweavers is a multi-disciplinary therapy team of highly experienced rehabilitation clinicians consisting:
– Occupational Therapists
– Speech Therapists
– Hand Therapists
– Stretch Therapists
– Specialised Massage Therapists
We also work with rehab doctors, counsellors and links up with support groups, social prescriptions and external vendors with other specialised services or equipment to assist our clients every step of the way on their recovery journey.