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Hand Therapy and Splinting

Hand Therapy is the use of specialized techniques to help decrease symptoms and increase normal functional use of the hand. The focus of treatment may include the elbow, wrist, fingers, and thumb. Either an occupational therapist or a physical therapist may provide the service, and the therapist will have had additional education in the area of hand treatment.

Diagnosis and problems include:

  • Fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Scarring associated with healing injuries
  • Tendon repairs
  • Elbow and wrist problems
  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Overuse and repetitive use symptoms
  • Contractures from varying disease processes
  • Other problems that affect hand function

Treatment Plan may include:

  • Prevention - to prevent the non functioning muscles from becoming tight
  • Facilitation - to stimulate the non-working muscles
  • Movement - to increase active and passive range of motion
  • Strengthening - to increase the strength in muscle groups as it returns
  • Function - to take the gains made with range of motion and strengthening and focus them on functional everyday self-care, work and community tasks.

Therapy may include:

  • Splinting
  • Positioning
  • Range of motion
  • Strengthening
  • Job modifications
  • Functional applications and education (either formal or informal) - to improve the level of independence and prevent further involvement


There are two types of epicondylitis - lateral - also known as tennis elbow, and medial - also known as golfer's elbow. Epicondylitis occurs when the muscles, either along the back side of the forearm or on the bottom side, become inflamed. Epicondylitis can occur when resistance is done with the hands with the arm in an extended position, or from repetitive movement.

Lateral Epicondylitis affects the top side of the forearm. Pain is noted at the outside "bump" of the elbow.

Medial Epicondylitis affects the bottom side of the forearm with the pain noted primarily on the inside "bump" of the elbow. It is less common.

With both diagnoses conservative treatment involves:

  • rest as able
  • techniques to decrease the edema
  • techniques to increase range of motion without pain
  • techniques to increase strength

If symptoms persist, sometimes an anti-inflammatory or injection is prescribed, in some cases surgery is done.


DeQuervain's occurs when the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist become inflamed. Normally, the tendons move smoothly through a tunnel with the help of a fluid-filled covering that surrounds the tendon. Friction can occur when the force placed on the tends exceeds the ability of the tendons to move easily though the tunnel. This affects the thumb when doing pinching movements. When swelling occurs in the sheath, pain develops when pinching movements are done.

DeQuervain's can be improved with the help of a therapist who may use techniques to:

  • decrease the swelling
  • provide support and protection with the use of a splint
  • improve range of motion
  • increase strength
  • decrease symptoms and improve function

Thumb Arthritis

Pain at the base of the thumbs can occur due to a person using the thumb for everyday and work activities. The pain is due to the cushion between the bones of the joint decreasing or disappearing.

Initially, treatment focuses on:

  • splinting
  • improve range of motion
  • isometric strengthening
  • if the pain continues, surgery may be needed


For more information about hand Therapy, please contact:

Rice Rehabilitation Center
311 SW 3rd St.
Willmar, MN 56201

Lynn Stier, Director

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