Hand Health: There’s more to it than meets the eye

By: Dr. Shirish Godbole, OTR, CHT, Central Jersey.com

The hand is probably the third most important part of our body, after the heart that drives us and the brain that guides us.

We interact with the environment through our hands and make things happen in our personal or professional life. Our hands perform millions of functions every day without us even thinking about it: exactly the reason why hands are so intricate, complicated and prone to injuries or impairments due to overuse.

A major difference between humans and apes is our mighty opposable thumb. The joint at the base of our thumb is amazing and moves in multiple directions, being pulled by nine different muscles which are controlled by three separate nerves, a kind of coordination and collaboration unique to us as humans.

There are 27 bones in our hand forming 29 joints, held together by 123 ligaments and pulled by 34 muscles, giving us the ability and the agility to perform any job, simple or complex. These muscles are fed by 30 arteries pumping enough oxygen to get the job done no matter how easy or hard. There are no muscles in our fingers. It is probably the greatest puppet show you have ever seen. One fourth of our cerebral cortex is devoted to the hand, indicating that our Creator also thought about our hands very seriously.

Hand injury or impairment can be a devastating blow as it reduces our interaction with the world, thus affecting our personal and professional as well as psycho-social life.

Certified hand therapists (CHTs) are highly trained and experienced in treating hand injuries and make accurate decisions at the right time, including custom fabrication of thermoplastic splints, which is crucial in hand therapy. Close communication between the therapist and hand surgeon is also essential.

CHTs can be licensed occupational therapists or physical therapists, with a minimum of three years of experience (4,000 hours) in treating hand injuries. Upon passing a board examination, they are entitled to be called a CHT. Hand therapists combine principles and practices of both professions to create a unique but highly effective approach in regaining hand functions.

Take your hand health seriously. Any pain, swelling, stiffness, inability to bend or straighten fingers, tingling and numbness lasting more than a week should be evaluated by a specialist in your local area for a correct diagnosis.

Hand therapy, whenever needed, should be provided and/or supervised by a CHT. Any delay can result in a domino effect of various issues stemming from a simple problem due to ignorance. Let us all have healthy hands to be more productive in everything that we do.

For more information, visit AbleHandsRehab.com or call 732-727-7333. A prescription from a hand surgeon is required for appointments.

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