Handy Tips for Hand Rehabilitation
With advancing years we have to acknowledge the effects of age on our bodies but we often don’t give a thought to our hard-working hands. In one person’s lifetime they will flex and extend their fingers, on just one hand, around 25 million times!
Did you know that around 1/4 of all your body’s bones are found in your hands? Your hand contains 27 different bones that include 8 carpal bones, 5 metacarpal bones and 14 finger bones, otherwise known as phalanges, that are all connected by joints and ligaments.
Until we start to feel the effects of disease or old age, we tend to take our hands and fingers for granted. But there are 4 million stroke survivors living in the U.S. today that know only too well the problems associated with muscle weakness, loss of range of motion, decreased reaction times and loss of fine motor skills.
Scientists have been looking at how to improve hand rehabilitation. In a recent study of mature Osteoarthritis patients, individuals were asked to take part in regular keyboard/piano playing activities. After participating in keyboard playing for 30 minutes, 4 times a week for 4 weeks, patients showed a decrease in arthritic discomfort and improvement in finger velocity, strength and dexterity.
The Digi-Flex Multi® hand exerciser aims to build on that type of research. It’s revolutionary
design allows hand therapists to customise hand therapy in a way that hasn’t been possible before. In the past, hand exercisers have had only one level of resistance. With the Digi-Flex Multi® each finger can exercise at specific levels but using only one device. Patients can exercise each finger separately or compress the entire unit for complete hand and forearm strengthening.
The resistance buttons on the Digi-Flex Multi® hand exerciser have 8 different strength levels. From x-light for gentle rehabilitation to a .75 pounds force-to-compress, which would be ideal for patients recovering from stroke, to a xxx-heavy 13 pound force-to-compress, for complete hand and forearm strength.
Patients requiring surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, dupuytren’s contracture, trigger finger or tendon repair may need to work with a hand therapist after their operation. Whilst physical therapy is hugely beneficial, it requires patients to commit to regular exercises at regular intervals. The Digi-Flex Multi® hand exerciser is simple for a therapist to monitor and patients can easily use it at home.
It’s important to remember that your fingers are not created equal. For example, your index finger is much stronger than your little finger. Rehabilitation tools need to address the balance of strength and this is where the individual resistance buttons on the Digi-Flex Multi® are able to cater for, and isolate, each finger’s needs, thereby creating bespoke rehabilitation hand exercises.
Ensuring that hand function and strength are restored, patients quickly achieve improved independence. Using education alongside rehabilitation is important to actively involve patients with their own recovery process. Being able to identify their own hand anatomy and examine both the cause and remedy for their situation can be extremely helpful to patients.
Using high quality hand models, that show the skeleton structure, ligaments and muscles, is a quick way to approach patient education. For conditions such as Dupuytren’s, consider using models that can demonstrate the superficial and deep palmer arches. This model has palmar aponeurosis and plate of the superficial tendons which are removable for further details and study of the human hand.
Source: Colleen M. Zelazny, MME, MT-BC, The University of Kansas http://jmt.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/2/97.short