Hand therapy eases pain from common condition

May 31, 2007
Janice Jenkins relied heavily on her hands to do the things she enjoyed. She was an avid hand-quilter and played the piano. But arthritis in the thumb of her right hand made it hard to continue. “I worked around it, but my hand became useless,” said Jenkins. “I lost all my hobbies.” Arthritis in the base of the thumb is very common. “Because of the frequency people use their thumbs, it causes stress to the joint, particularly if the activity is strenuous or forceful,” said David Clawson, a hand therapist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. “As we age, the likelihood of developing arthritis in that joint increases.” There is no cure for arthritis, but hand therapy, pain medication, activity modification and splints can make a difference. This may be enough for some patients. “Therapy can help avoid or delay surgery in some cases,” said Clawson. “However, sometimes surgery is necessary.” NHRMC’s hand therapy program at Oleander Rehabilitation Center offers help for those hoping to avoid surgery and for those recovering from it. Certified hand therapists work with patients to strengthen muscles and help the joints move more freely. A computerized hand evaluation system can test the patient’s strength and range of motion and track it on a regular basis. Jenkins started coming to Oleander Rehabilitation Center after having the joint reconstructed in her thumb in March. She was expecting the therapy to be much more painful than it turned out to be. “The therapy they do is wonderful,” Jenkins said. She particularly likes the therapies that involve massages. “It’s like going to a hand spa.” Jenkins has several months of therapy still ahead, but she’s anxious to pick up her old hobbies.. “I’m looking forward to going back to what I used to do, including cooking, cleaning and taking piano lessons,” she said. “I also have three quilts waiting for me.”A physician referral is needed to begin hand therapy. For more information please call Oleander Rehabilitation Center at 452.8104.