Most Common Hand Injuries
Hand therapists specialize in conditions affecting hand and upper extremity injuries and impairments due to a variety of causes. A hand therapist may be an occupational therapist (OT) or a physical therapist (PT) who has advanced training and experience treating patients who have endured an injury or impairment to the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, and/or shoulder. Hand therapists provide physical rehabilitation services to help individuals recover from post-surgical conditions, non-operative injuries, neurological impairments, nerve entrapment in the upper extremities, work-related consultations, and preventative measures to minimize the risk of pain or injury. A hand therapist’s goal is to assist their patients in returning to the greatest level of independence in necessary and preferred everyday activities. Hand pain treatment may result in faster recovery times, decreased medical costs, and better functional outcomes. Understanding the types of hand injuries will get you one step closer to hand pain relief.
Common types of hand injuries
Hand injuries can be traumatic in nature, due to repetitive stress and strain, degenerative, or neurological. Symptoms associated with hand injuries, or even just an injured finger, depend on how the nerve injury, tendon injury, ligament injury, or other type of handy injury occurred, severity, and location. Common injury symptoms may include hand and wrist pain, stiffness, loss of movement, weakness, pallor (paleness), erythema (redness), bruising, bleeding, swelling, numbness, and blistering. Some of the most common types of injuries treated by hand therapists include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – nerve compression in the wrist
- Cubital Tunnel Syndrome – nerve compression in the elbow
- De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
- Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
- Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
- Fractures of the elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers
- Tendon lacerations
- Ligament tears/sprains
- Wrist sprain/pain
- Peripheral Neuropathy
Deformities and other issues
- Swan Neck Deformity
- Boutonniere Deformity
- Mallet Finger
- Dupuytren’s Contracture
- Ganglion Cysts
How can a hand therapist help you?
An injured hand or upper extremity injuries, like a wrist injury or elbow injury, may be painful, require surgery, or immobilization in a cast or a custom fabricated splint; however, any of the above-named injuries may also impede function of the affected upper extremity. Hand therapists can work with you to improve hand function after hand surgery or injury, minimize the risk of hand injuries, and get you back to feeling like yourself again through the use of therapeutic exercises, therapeutic activities, and the use of physical agent modalities.
Our hand therapists at Ivy Rehab will work with you one-on-one to design a custom rehabilitation physical therapy plan specifically tailored to your injury or current condition. Treatment sessions typically include a combination of modalities such as heat, ice, or electrical stimulation, hands-on manual mobilization techniques, exercises such as stretching and strengthening, and therapeutic activities related to your everyday life. Therapeutic activities may include anything that is required for you to manage your day-to-day tasks independently such as feeding or food cutting simulation, cooking, sports like tennis, golf, or baseball, general exercise, and weight lifting, or walking your dog. Our hand therapists may also provide recommendations for modifying certain activities or the environment in which the activity is performed, which are specific to your physical abilities to increase your independence after an injury or impairment.
When should you go to a doctor for a hand injury?
In order to be treated by a hand therapist, a prescription or referral is required by your physician. If you experience a traumatic injury or chronic pain, it is best to be evaluated by a hand surgeon, who is a doctor with advanced training and education in hand and upper extremity diagnoses. If you are unsure how severe your hand pain or injury is, be sure to monitor your symptoms; if you notice worsening pain, swelling, or redness, it is best to be evaluated by a trained medical professional in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. Delayed medical attention, even for the smallest injury, can result in infection or loss of function without appropriate care. When in doubt, it is best to contact your doctor or be seen at a local urgent care center.
Article by: Katie A. Richter, MS, OTR/L, CEAS II
Katie has been working in outpatient hand therapy since graduating with her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Mercy College in 2019, after earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Stockton University in 2015. She has a passion for helping her patients regain independence in their everyday lives, despite their hand and upper extremity injuries and impairments. Katie has been working towards earning her Certification in Hand Therapy (CHT) with Ivy Rehab’s Hand Specialization Program and is also a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist (CEAS II). Katie loves treating any post-operative injuries and seeing the progress that her patients make along the way. She loves when her patients realize how far they have come and hearing their stories about their newly regained function and independence.