I'll never forget the day I broke my hand. As a newly graduated Physiotherapist, I was devastated. However, this was a turning point in my life and it sparked a passion within me to learn more about hand therapy, and different rehabilitation approaches. In this post, I want to share what I've learned and how you can use this knowledge to learn more about your hand pain, and how to treat it.
Can Physio Help With a Hand Injury?
Physiotherapy can be a very effective form of treatment for hand injuries, hand pain, and recovery from hand surgery. Common hand injuries can be related to trauma, such as a fall or a motor vehicle accident. Other forms of hand injuries and persistent pain can result from repetitive strain injuries, such as repetitive computer use and manual labour.
Physiotherapy treatment for hand injuries will include manual therapy by the physiotherapist to improve the range of motion of the joints and improve blood flow to the tissues in the hand. Physiotherapy for hand injuries will also include exercises to strengthen the muscles and stretch the tight tissues. This is all with the goal in mind of helping you return to meaningful, and functional daily activities.
What Does a Hand Physiotherapist Do?
A hand physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder and neck. They do a thorough examination including the entire limbs, neck and even the upper back to make sure that they assess and can treat all of the contributing factors that resulted in the hand pain.
This is particularly important when the hand pain is of insidious onset, meaning that there was no clear mechanism of injury preceding the onset of hand pain. The physiotherapist will then apply specialized treatment techniques such as joint mobilizations, strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, soft tissue release, and may use other modalities such as acupuncture, and cupping.
When Should I Start Physio After an Injury?
The sooner you begin physiotherapy treatment after a hand injury the better. Your physiotherapist can perform treatment techniques that will help reduce pain and inflammation, and show you how to facilitate recovery and pain reduction on your own at home.
For example, your physiotherapist can perform gentle manual therapy techniques to mobilize inflammation around the joints and teach you to use home treatment techniques such as a contrast bath to improve blood flow and circulation and reduce inflammation.
How Do You Know if a Hand Injury Is Serious?
If you have experienced some form of a traumatic event leading to your hand pain, the potential of a serious injury should be considered. If you notice severe swelling, sharp pain, and the inability to grip, make a fist or bear weight on your hand it may indicate the occurrence of a serious injury which requires immediate medical consultation.
A thorough assessment by a medical professional such as a physiotherapist or emergency room physician, followed by medical imaging such as an X-ray would be required to confirm the diagnosis of a more serious hand injury.
How Long Does a Hand Injury Take To Heal?
The recovery period for every injury varies. This depends on the overall health of the patient including their age, comorbidities, and previous injury history. It also depends on the severity of the injury.
A sprain or strain to the wrist can take a few weeks to recover and get back to your functional, meaningful activities with the help of a physiotherapist. Injuries such as a fracture from a car accident on the other hand may require surgery and can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months or more.
How Can I Heal My Hand Injury Faster?
The sooner that you get assessed by a physiotherapist when experiencing hand pain the better. This is because if you delay the assessment, then over time the injury begins to change the way that your hand and wrist move and this leads to compensations in the hand, wrist and other nearby joints such as the elbow and shoulder which can lead to more complicated recovery.
For strains and sprains, we also encourage gentle active movement early on in the recovery process, guided by pain limitations. This is because the more you move the better the blood flow is and the tissues require blood flow in order to heal properly.
Also, the more you move the stronger your muscles will be and this will also aid in the recovery process. So, an early assessment by a physiotherapist, along with controlled movement early in the recovery process will lead to a quicker and better overall recovery.
The Treatment Process for Hand Injuries at Body Science Therapy
It is important that your physiotherapist perform a comprehensive assessment to figure out the root cause of your issues, the cause of your symptoms, and any other contributing factors that may be impairing your recovery or preventing you from returning to the meaningful activities in your life.
For this reason, we develop individualized, detailed treatment plans that target all of these issues. A treatment plan provided by your physiotherapist typically will begin with more frequent treatments in the beginning and then as you improve and get closer to your goals it will reduce in frequency and the focus becomes more on the home exercises compared to the in-person physiotherapy treatments.
Massage Therapy and Manual Therapy
Massage therapy can be a helpful adjunct to the physiotherapy treatment plan for hand pain. The combination of Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy can be very effective for many common conditions including hand pain. Massage therapy will help to improve blood flow, improve lymphatic drainage, and reduce inflammation around the affected sites. This will aid in your recovery as it will improve the oxygenation of the tissues, reduce pain, and improve mobility.
Manual therapy techniques can be performed by a physiotherapist and can be a useful treatment tool to help in your recovery. Manual therapy techniques will typically include joint mobilizations, soft tissue release, and stretching.
In the early stages after an injury, or the early stages of your treatment plan pain management may be a focal point. There are many ways to engage in pain management and pain relief, this may include the use of over-the-counter gels or creams, or the use of hot and cold packs, self-massage, stretching and strengthening, which your physiotherapist will guide you through.
Future Injury Prevention
One of the components of your treatment plan will include a thorough assessment and treatment of not only where your symptoms are, but also what caused the injury. This is particularly true if the pain was of insidious onset, meaning there was no clear cause associated with the onset of the hand pain.
The way a physiotherapist can help to prevent further injuries is by ensuring that the muscles in your hand are strong. This may include muscles all the way from the fingers up to the wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, and upper back. All of these areas work in conjunction together so it is important that they are all assessed thoroughly and treated thoroughly as well.
Your physiotherapist will provide you with exercises that you can perform to maintain your strength and mobility and prevent further injuries. This will also ensure that if you are injured in the future you have a quicker recovery time and a better healing process.
Body Science Therapy specializes in providing individualized, thorough assessments and personalized treatment plans. It is always best to be seen sooner than later after an injury, but if you have had chronic pain for a long time, it’s not too late. Regardless of whether you have an acute injury or a longstanding issue, we're here to help you get back to your meaningful activities. Book your appointment today and let's work together towards a healthier, happier you.