Hand Therapy: Treating Arthritis

Hand Therapy: Treating Arthritis

by Cole Home Health

Arthritis affects about 27 million Americans over the age of 25.  The most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).  Osteoarthritis begins with the breakdown of joint cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness, and inflammation.  RA has an inflammatory process and OA is wear and tear of the joints.

The most common joint in the hand to develop arthritis is the carpometacarpal joint (one of the thumb joints). People with arthritis of the thumb typically complain of pain or an aching feeling at the base of the thumb.  These symptoms may be aggravated by the weather, grasping, pinching or when severe, may be present at rest or at night. Other symptoms include weakness, clumsiness or deformity of the thumb

Occupational Therapists who specialize in hand therapy treatments usually focus on the following therapeutic techniques:

  • Splinting to provide support, minimize pain, prevent deformity in joints and improve function
  • Patient education for correct ergonomics, body mechanics and joint protection techniques/adaptive devices to avoid wear and tear of the joints during daily and work-related tasks
  • Physical agent modalities, including moist heating packs, parafin, etc., to minimize pain and inflammation in the hands/upper extremity.
  • Therapeutic exercises to improve flexibility and strength in hand/upper extremity

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