How Can Hand Therapy Help with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

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carpal tunnel syndrome

How Can Hand Therapy Help with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

carpal tunnel syndrome

We don’t realize just how much we use our hands and wrists in our daily lives—until we begin experiencing pain.  Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a disorder that causes pain and weakness in the hand and wrist that can affect the use of the whole arm. CTS develops from pressure on a nerve in the wrist — not the muscles, as some people believe. Affecting 1 out of 20 Americans, CTS is a common condition.  Fortunately for most people who develop CTS, therapy can often relieve pain and numbness and restore normal use of the hand, wrist, and arm without the need for surgery.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CTS

CTS usually starts gradually, with symptoms such as burning or tingling.  Often, the symptoms are more noticeable during the night, and individuals can be awakened by the pain.  As the condition progresses, the symptoms are noticed during the daytime as well and often worse when holding items—you may find that you drop objects unexpectedly or have a weak grip.

HOW CAN A CERTIFIED HAND THERAPIST HELP?

After an evaluation, your handtherapist will prescribe your treatment plan based on your specific case.  Depending on the causes of your CTS, your therapy program may include:

  • Exercises to increase the strength of the muscles in your hand, fingers, and forearm
  • Stretching exercises to improve the flexibility of the wrist, hand and fingers
  • Use of heat/cold treatments to relieve pain and reduce any inflammation of tissues in the wrist that puts pressure on the median nerve
  • Massage to increase circulation and relax muscles
  • Proper neck and upper back posture education—avoiding slouching
  • You may be provided with a wrist splint to keep your wrist straight, generally at night
  • Tips about daily activities including how to use your computer and keyboard and minimizing repetitive activities.

CAN CTS BE PREVENTED?

There are no proven ways to prevent CTS, but you can minimize the stress to your hands and wrists.  The following strategies are effective ways to minimize stress to your hands and wrists.

  • Take breaks.  When doing repeated activities, give your hands a break by performing stretching exercises.
  • Reduce force.  Many people use more force than necessary when performing work with their hands.  Relax your grip to avoid muscle fatigue and strain.
  • Improve your posture.  Believe it or not, proper alignment of your neck and shoulders can prevent excessive strain and improper positioning of the wrists and hands.
  • Maintain good health.  Staying physically fit and maintaining a healthy weight may help control diseases and conditions that may contribute to the onset of CTS.
  • Neutral wrist position.  Try to avoid bending your wrists by keeping them in a straight or “neutral” position.  Your wrist should not be bent up or down.

As always, the goals of hand therapy are to reduce your symptoms without the need for surgery, to enable you to continue moving pain free, and to help you resume your normal activities.

Physical Therapists Treat THAT?

Physical Therapists Treat THAT?

Many people have seen a Physical Therapist (PT) for common reasons such as low back pain or knee pain.  There are also many less common conditions PT’s treat that you may not be aware of.  In many cases, physical therapy is an effective, low-cost, low-risk, and non-invasive alternative to surgery, helping patients manage the condition through simple exercises and changes in lifestyle.  Here are five health conditions that a physical therapist treats that may surprise you.

1. Vertigo: Vertigo is a spinning sensation and can occur even when you are perfectly still. The most common form of vertigo treated with physical therapy is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This is a mechanical inner ear problem that causes short periods of this spinning sensation when the head is moved in certain positions. When treated by a PT, positional vertigo can be eliminated in as little as one session.

2. Concussion: In recent years, concussions have received a lot of attention in the news as doctors and athletes are seeking ways to manage long-term problems brought on by a concussion. These long term conditions can include dizziness/vertigo, balance problems, or complaints of headaches, all of which can be treated by a PT. There is a very specific balance of returning to normal activities with symptom management to allow the individual who had the concussion to fully recover.

3. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (Jaw Pain): Jaw pain can be due to a variety of problems, but one of the main reasons includes poor posture, which leads to increased stress on the joint. A PT can address postural issues, assess and improve the alignment of the joint, as well as improve joint mobility to reduce pain.

4. Headaches: There are many different types of headaches including tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches to name a few. Often times, headaches can become a very frequent occurrence affecting a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. The most common type of headaches may be caused by poor posture, stress, muscle tightness, or a neck injury. A PT can help to determine the type of headaches and what the best treatments may be to help alleviate symptoms. A PT can perform manual massage to help loosen up tight muscles and can teach the patient about proper posture of the neck and upper body to decrease stress and tension that might be leading to these headaches.

1. Lymphedema: Lymphedema is swelling that may occur in the arms and legs that is stemming from your lymphatic system. It is very common after certain types of cancer treatments, such as breast cancer, where lymph nodes may be removed. A trained PT can perform certain types of lymphatic drainage massage or use certain wrapping techniques to help decrease swelling in a limb.

If you have patients who have experienced, or are currently experiencing any of these symptoms, consider sending them to a trained Physical Therapist at Contact Physical Therapy to help with symptom management.

Barefoot Running: Is it for you?

barefoot running

Have you seen people running around in those funny looking toe shoes? There’s a new trend in running catching on quickly, and is often referred to as the Barefoot Running Movement. It is easy to first be skeptical – don’t we need cushion to protect us from injuries? In 1960, Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, the greatest Olympic marathoner of all time, won the first of his consecutive gold medals sans shoes in a world record 2:15:17. When you run barefoot, your body engages your vision, your brain, the soles of your feet, and all of the muscles, bones, tendons and supporting structures of your feet and legs.

Physical Therapists can help runners analyze both walking and running gait patterns with a particular focus on proper footwear, orthotics and the various types of running shoes available to the masses. Most people spend years in supportive footwear, which can cause weakness and fragile feet and ankles. This is why the transition to barefoot running has to be slow, deliberate and planned. It is best to seek professional help from a physical therapist or podiatrist when transitioning to barefoot running as they can address the muscles that may have become weak over the years, and help you strengthen these problem areas to decrease the risk of injury when transitioning to a new running style. It is also advisable to change your running technique first before attempting to change your footwear.

Running Pattern Changes for Barefoot Running

In order to run barefoot properly, your running pattern must change. Traditionally, the heel cushion in running shoes encourages you to hit the ground with your heel first (heel strike). However, people who hit the ground with the heel first tend to have higher rates of injuries such as stress fractures, patellofemoral pain syndrome (anterior knee pain), plantar fasciitis, shin splints, hip pain, and back pain. In barefoot running, the ball of the foot hits the ground first. This allows the large muscles of the calf to absorb impact forces (such as ground reaction force). With barefoot running, the knee is also bent more at initial impact when compared to traditional running. This allows the hamstrings and quads (quadriceps femoris) to contract without compressing the knee joint as much as with traditional running. As a result, step frequency increases, but more efficiently since oxygen consumption decreases when using a barefoot running technique.

Some of the benefits of running barefoot include fewer injuries, due to “natural running” and faster speed, due to increased running economy, from zero weight on your feet. In addition, your weight & speed will influence what sole, or lack thereof, works best for you. Discover what works best for your body in order to make the transition to barefoot running safe and successful.

 

strength & fitness in the workplace

Strength and Fitness in the Workplace

strength & fitness in the workplace

Although many careers today allow inactive lifestyles, others still require various levels of physical fitness. The employee sitting in an office environment on a daily basis may not need to lift heavy boxes, but being physically fit can help increase energy, handle more stress and enhance the performance in any job.  Researchers have found that employees who find the time to engage in physical activity are less likely to experience a deterioration of their mental health, including symptoms of burnout and depression.  Scientists state that employers will benefit from encouraging physical fitness of their employees.  Inspiring workers to be physically active lessens high health costs, reduces absenteeism, and increases productivity in the workplace.

Encouraging employees to embrace fitness as a lifestyle choice pays off in numerous ways:

  • Fit employees are less likely to get sick
  • Fit employees have more energy
  • Fit employees have more self confidence
  • Fit employees tend to take on more leadership roles
  • Fit employees set and achieve goals
  • Fit employees tend to have better attitudes
  • Fit employees are less stressed
  • Encouraging fitness demonstrates a concern for employee’s well-being

Some jobs will weed out unqualified candidates immediately with stringent physical qualification tests and medical exams.  Even if the employee qualifies for training it doesn’t necessarily guarantee work in these occupations because by the end of training, candidates must demonstrate strength and skill.  Your company may save thousands of dollars by using the Physical Capacity Profile Testing System (PCP) which will help your company hire candidates who are physically fit for the job and implement a system should an injury occur. The PCP is a comprehensive testing procedure developed by an orthopedic physician that documents the test subject’s physical skills and American Medical Association related impairments.  It helps occupational and human resource professionals place employees in the appropriate job to minimize the potential of injury while documenting each employee’s physical capacity and impairments.

The Physical Capacity Profile Testing System can be utilized in post-hire testing as well as return-to-duty testing. In post-hire testing the procedure helps the employer determine an employee’s physical capabilities and limitations before they start work. It provides quantitative data that assists in the placement process while meeting all regulatory compliance criteria. Return-to-duty testing allows the employer to be responsible for returning the employee to what their capabilities were upon hire.

To learn more about workplace safety and workers’ comp, please follow us on LinkedIn!

Is Your Employee Ready to Return to the Same Job After Their Injury?

boxesdesk

Whether your employee can return to work full-time, part-time, or can’t return at all, it is important to begin to plan how and when they can safely return to work.  To aid in the return-to-work process, an employee may be offered modified or alternative duties until they are able to return to their previous position.

However, a worker should be given sufficient time to recover from the injury or illness and not feel pressured into returning to work.  Employers have an obligation to help the employee return to work and to ensure that they are not treated unfavorably because of their injury.  If an employee returns to work and finds their injury keeps them from completing the tasks at hand, they may request a collection of workers compensation benefits.

An effective return-to-work program can benefit employers in numerous ways.  Such a program can help avoid millions of dollars in fines and penalties, reduce workers’ compensation costs, retain experienced employees, improve employee morale, and help ensure equal opportunity of employment for persons with disabilities.  Here are some practices in returning an injured employee to work:

 

  • Contact the injured employee and start the interactive process
  • Describe essential functions and usual duties of jobs
  • Obtain work capacities and restrictions
  • Research and evaluate possible accommodations  and make an offer of work
  • Implement and monitor the accommodation

 

Your company can save thousands of dollars by using a system like the Physical Capacity Profile Testing System (PCP) will give definitive answers to often unanswered questions.   The PCP is a comprehensive testing procedure developed by an orthopedic physician that documents the test subject’s physical skills and American Medical Association related impairments.  It helps occupational and human resource professionals place employees in the appropriate job to minimize the potential of injury while documenting each employee’s physical capacity and impairments.

The Physical Capacity Profile Testing System can be utilized in post-hire testing as well as return-to-duty testing. In post-hire testing the procedure helps the employer determine an employee’s physical capabilities and limitations before they start work. It provides quantitative data that assists in the placement process while meeting all regulatory compliance criteria. Return-to-duty testing allows the employer to be responsible for returning the employee to what their capabilities were upon hire.

workers compensation

Reducing Work Comp Costs and Improve Performance

workers compensation

Due to employers asking for help in reducing their work comp exposures, Occupational Performance Corporation went to work to find another tool or resource to hire more physically-able bodies.  The Physical Capacity Profile Testing System was developed to help employers by:  1. Reducing injuries by ensuring employees have the physical strength to safely perform their job responsibilities, 2. Reducing workers compensation by documenting impairments an employee brings with them to the workplace, per the AMA Guides, and 3. Providing pre-injury baseline measurements on an employee, allowing treating professionals to expedite the rehabilitation process.

Across multiple states, the PCP System is performing thousands of tests in hospitals, physical therapy offices, and more, all aiding in supplying the answers and methods to help employers in the community reduce injuries.

Only a 30 minute exam, The Components of the Physical Capacity Profile® Testing System Include:

 

  • Comprehensive Medical Review
  • Upper Extremity Strength
  • Lower Extremity Strength
  • Trunk Strength
  • Fitness
  • Spirometry
  • Active Lumbar Range of Motion
  • Lower Extremity Mobility
  • Maximum Lifting Capability
  • Safe Lifting Technique


Advantages Rapid delivery of test results allows management to quickly place newly hired employees. The data is electronically captured to avoid human error over multiple tests. This allows matching of physical capacity to job demands based on essential functions of the job.

Cost Justifications By reducing the risk of injury, the number of workers’ compensation claims and related premiums are also reduced. Cost-conscious management knows that fewer lost work days due to workers’ compensation claims will result in increased productivity and profits.

Medical Ratings The Physical Capacity Profile® provides medical documentation of impairment in accordance with the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides (4th Edition). This baseline information is critical in managing future workers’ compensation claims with each state’s workers’ compensation statutes. When applicable, the results are presented in accordance with AMA guidelines.

How Can This System Benefit Me as an Employer? When employees are physically matched to the job they are substantially less likely to be injured.

Many companies require a post-hire physical. However, the typical physical does not adequately document musculoskeletal imbalances, which could lead to injuries. The standard physician physical is simply not cost-effective or protective in reducing workers’ compensation claims.

This system can only help human resource professionals correctly place employees. It also can help reduce costs and increase productivity. Fewer lost workdays due to workers compensation claims will result in increase productivity and profits.

Stretching & Exercise

Stretching & Exercising: The Why & How

Stretching & Exercise

Stretching is the unsung hero when it comes to fitness

Stretching is critical towards achieving peak fitness condition. It is ideal to stretch before and after your workouts as you are more prone to injury if you do not stretch before exercise. Stretching prior to exercise warms up your body, making it less prone to accidents and injuries. Stretching following exercise relieves muscle tightness, improves flexibility and cools down the body.

Many people opt out of stretching but it is an important part of any exercise with many benefits:

The Benefits of Stretching

o Increased flexibility and joint range of motion

o Improved circulation

o Better posture

o Reduces stress

o Enhanced coordination

o Lengthens your muscles

o Increases blood flow

o Provides a sense of peace and well-being

 

Proper Stretching Techniques

o Warm up first. When muscles are cold, the risk of pulled muscles is increased. Do a cardio exercise for at least five minutes prior to activity.

o Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. It takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

o Don’t bounce. If you bounce as you stretch it can cause small tears (microtears) in the muscle.

o Relax and don’t forget to breathe

o Stretch both sides

o Stretch before and after activity

occupational injuries

Occupational Injuries

OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES

occupational injuries

An occupational injury is bodily damage resulting from working.  On average, there are 23,000 on-the-job injuries in the United States every day. Annually, this adds up to 8.5 million injuries and a huge cost to workers, their families and our economy.  But, it’s not injuries alone that workers deal with. Hundreds of thousands of employees develop illnesses on the job, costing $58 billion a year.

Common causes of occupational injury are poor ergonomics, manual handling of heavy loads, misuse or failure of equipment, exposure to general hazards, inadequate safety training and clothing, or jewelry/long hair becoming tangled in machinery. Other general hazards in a work environment include electricity, fire, height, powerful or sharp moving machinery, poisonous gases, or working under weak or heavy structures.

There are many methods of preventing or reducing occupational injuries, including anticipation of problems by investing in something such as the Physical Capacity Profile Testing System.  The PCP Testing System helps employers reduce on-the-job injuries by ensuring employees have the physical strength to safely perform their job responsibilities.  It also aids in reducing workers compensation exposure by documenting impairments an employee brings with them to the workplace, per the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides.  The information gathered from the PCP Testing System can prove to be extremely valuable for a number of professionals involved in injury treatment and injury compensation including the employee, physicians, employers and insurance companies.

safety at work

Health and safety at work: a basic guide

Health and safety at work: a basic guide

 safety at work

What steps must an employer take to ensure they comply with the laws on health and safety and minimize the risk of employees becoming ill or getting injured while at work?  There are a number of health and safety measures all employers must implement in the workplace, and below we have outlined a few.

 

Risk Assessment:  All employers must conduct a risk assessment of their workplace. A typical risk assessment will ensure that possible hazards or dangers to workers’ health and safety have been identified and that sufficient protection is in place to prevent an accident.  Potential hazards are noted (these may include, among others, slippery surfaces, people working at height, dangerous substances, noisy environments and areas where vehicles are in motion).  Also noted are those workers who may be at risk from these potential hazards. The level of the risk must then be gauged along with the adequacy or otherwise of the precautions and protection currently in place – this will dictate whether further protective measures need to be introduced.

 

Signs:  Each workplace must show the following signs:  A copy, prominently displayed, of the Health and Safety law poster, a certificate of employers’ liability insurance; and signs warning employees of particular workplace dangers or hazards such as machinery, vehicles at work and potentially harmful substances.

 

Equipment:  All equipment used by employees at work must be safe.  The law requires that such equipment must be appropriate for the use to which it is put and that it must be checked regularly and kept in safe working order.  The equipment must come with safety precautions like protective clothing and warning signs where appropriate.  The only employees who can use equipment are those who have the training and the information needed to operate the equipment safely.

 

First Aid:  The law requires employers ensure there are adequate first aid facilities and equipment in the workplace. These must include a properly filled first aid box.  Firms handling dangerous substances or using potentially dangerous machinery are usually required to have further first aid procedures in place.

 

Prevent Injuries:  Using a service such as the Physical Capacity Profile Testing System will assist employers in preventing work place injuries by properly matching their employees’ physical abilities to their new job.  Utilizing state-of-the-art proprietary software, the PCP machine completes a collection of multiple measurements in as little as 30 minutes with results available to employers within minutes.  The post offer physical exam and testing accesses human performance to reduce workers’ comp claims, lower employer insurance premiums and minimize employee injuries.

 

 

A Word From Our Patients

We always appreciate when our patients let us know how they feel about the work we do, whether it be positive or negative. It allows us to evaluate ourselves on a regular basis to make sure we are doing the best we can!

Below is a letter we received from one of our patients to Brendan Cousineau from our Scottsdale location!

Dear Brendan,

I want to thank you for all the great therapy you have given me with my knee injury. You and Pam really do an incredible job in helping people recover from all types of issues. It was amazing to me that you predicted the need for surgery even before I went to the surgeon.  Because of what you had shared with me, I felt more comfortable in having the surgery and knew that I could go back to you for the rehabilitation.

I’m very impressed with the attention you’ve given me and how I see you treat all other patients.  You really show caring and a need to see all patients improve their quality of life. A large part of recuperation is the encouragement you share with your clients.

You have a wonderful spirit and pass on optimism to all of us.  That is a huge part of the healing process.   I also appreciate your skill level in accessing what can be done to improve my health.  When I presented you with my neck problem, I felt more relief than I have had in a long time.  I will diligently follow the exercise program you give me to strength my neck so that I can keep up with my small business operation. I have lived with a lot of pain in my low back but manage to keep that at bay with swimming and not sitting too long at one time. The neck is another issue and I look forward to a few more sessions with you so you can help me learn how to relieve that pain on an ongoing basis. I want to stay productive and not suffer with that “pain in the neck”. 

You have really helped me in the last nine months.  I can’t wait to go dancing again…Thanks for all you’ve done to keep me active and happy in my life.  Please continue all your good works with those who need your expertise and have the desire to live with less pain or be pain free. You’re making this a better world one patient at a time.

Sincerely, Sandy S.

Keep up the good work, team!

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have!