Your hands are valuable! Without them, you couldn’t do a number of activities you do every day. Whether it’s feeding or dressing yourself, using your cellphone or playing a musical instrument, losing the functions of your hand interferes with your day-to-day tasks.
Many people don’t think about how much they use their hands until an injury or illness causes pain, weakness or deems them unusable. Hand injuries are a common occurrence, accounting for 5 to 10 percent of all visits to the emergency room. These injuries can cause significant disability and prevent you from going to work and taking care of your family.
How Your Hands Function
Did you know there are no muscles in your fingers?
It’s true! Muscles in your forearm pull on long tendons to move the bones of your fingers. Tendons connect muscles to bone. The tendons that move your fingers start at the end of a muscle in your forearm, go through your wrist then attach to the small bones in your fingers and thumb.
The tendons on the top of your hand, known as extensor tendons, straighten your fingers. The tendons on your palm, known as flexor tendons, bend your fingers.
Cutting or tearing a tendon in your forearm, wrist, palm or finger can prevent you from moving one or more joints in a finger. Nerves of your fingers tend to run close to tendons, so anything that injures a tendon will likely injure the nerve as well.
Tendons are somewhat like rubber bands in that connecting muscle to bone creates a lot of tension. Like partially snipping a taut rubber band, cutting or tearing a tendon releases some of this tension in a way that causes the two ends of the tendon to pull far apart, which prevents the tendon from healing properly.
Common Hand Problems
Flexor tendons on the top of your hand are close to the surface of the skin, which makes them vulnerable to injury.
Common hand problems include:
• Carpal tunnel syndrome – compression of a nerve in your wrist that causes your fingers to feel numb
• Osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis, caused by normal wear and tear
• Tendinitis – irritation of the tendons
Therapy to Strengthen Your Hands
Fortunately, therapy can strengthen your hands, even after arthritis or injury causes weakness. You might be a candidate for hand therapy if you have wounds, scars, burns, fractures or others injuries to the tendons, nerves or muscles serving your hand. Hand therapy may be beneficial if you have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you have suffered a stroke that has weakened any of your hands. Hand therapy optimizes recovery in a way that helps you get back to your productive lifestyle.
Hand therapy can:
• Provide treatment without surgery
• Reduce new or chronic pain
• Calm hypersensitivity from nerve problems
• Help you regain feeling in your hand after a nerve injury
• Teach you how to perform everyday tasks with the help of tools
• Help you get back to work or play