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Desk Jobs and Specialized Physical Therapy Go Hand-in-Hand

May 5, 2016

The advent of computers witnessed the rise of cumulative trauma to hands and wrists that typists in the old days didn’t suffer. No longer does the desk jockey have to pause at the end of each line to sling back the carriage or take a quick break to insert another sheet of paper. No, the desk-bound office worker just keeps typing on and on with the repetitive, unceasing motion of plinking keys on a keyboard offering additional wear and tear on muscles and tendons without the spiritual benefits of music. Denver physical therapy providers understand the discomfort and stiffness.

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand advises hand therapy to treat conditions affecting the hands and upper extremities. Patients may include those who suffered trauma (wounds, scars, burns, etc.) and those who suffer from conditions such as carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and arthritis. It is the hand therapist’s goal to restore functionality, preferably without pain, so the patient can go back to work. Restoration of functionality may include special exercises and workplace adaptations to reduce strain on the affected parts. 

Hand conditions that may require physical or occupational therapy include:
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, which is basically a pinched nerve in the wrist. When the carpal tunnel swells, it puts pressure on the median nerve and nine tendons that pass through it. Symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, weak grip, and occasional clumsiness.
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome is the medical term describing pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve (aka the funny bone). Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the ring and small fingers, pain in the forearm, and weakness in the hand.
  • De Quervain syndrome affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. The tunnel where tendons run from thumb to wrist narrows due to thickening of soft tissue and cause pain when grasping to twisting with the affected hand.
  • Dupuytren’s contracture shows up as pits, bumps, and cords beneath the skin which cause the fingers to curl toward the palm. The lumps can be uncomfortable, but the disease isn’t generally painful; it does, however, affect common tasks such as washing hands and wearing gloves.
  • Ganglion cysts most often occur at the top of the wrist, the palm side of the wrist, the base of the finger on the palm side, and the top of the end joint of the finger. It resembles a water balloon and is filled with clear fluid. They can be either firm or soft. Cysts at the far end of the joint may be accompanied by a bone spur.
  • Jammed fingers can happen when playing sports or during regular everyday activities. This painful condition is often accompanied by swelling and an inability to bend or straighten the finger.
  • Mallet finger is caused by damage to the tendon that straightens the finger, oftentimes by some blunt force like a hammer. The force may even separate a piece of bone with the tendon. Pain, swelling, and bruising may accompany collection of blood under the fingernail.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that gradually disfigures the affective joints. Joints often feel hot and look red, are swollen, and suffer abnormal bending or collapse. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also suffer from numbness and tingling in the hand.
  • Lateral epicondylitis, a.k.a. tennis elbow, is the degeneration of the tendons that anchor muscle to the bone on the outside part of the elbow. The condition causes pain starting at the elbow when the tendon is stressed by gripping or lifting.
  • Trigger finger occurs when the tendons that help the finger (or thumb) bend cannot slide easily through the tunnel that directs their movement. It may begin with discomfort felt at the base of the finger and can be sensitive to pressure. Symptoms also include popping, a catching feeling, and limited finger movement.
Treatment depends upon the condition and focuses on restoring the hand to functionality and preventing further damage. Cherry Creek Wellness Center will work with your physician and you to develop a specialized hand therapy regimen that you can live with. With five locations in the greater Denver area, we're convenient to you. Call us at (303) 333-3493 to schedule an appointment.