Hand Therapists

It's easy to take your hands for granted. But if they get injured, it becomes painfully clear just how important they are to everyday activities such as opening a jar, writing a check or throwing a ball. Hand experts at seven Park Nicollet locations are here to help you recover from hand injuries - and even prevent them through better workplace ergonomics and proper body mechanics.

Treating common hand conditions

According to Thomas Walsh, MD, hand surgeon, Park Nicollet Clinic-Meadowbrook, a variety of causes may lead to hand problems, including:

trauma, such as sprains, fractures and lacerations
health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid disease
wear and tear or age-related conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger finger or osteoarthritis
a combination dermend of factors, including age (read dermend), activity, and wear and tear

The role of hand surgeons is to maintain, repair and reconstruct nerves, tendons, bones and joints of the upper extremities. However, they don't work alone. "Anytime the musculoskeletal system of the shoulder, arm or hand is injured, it has a global effect on a person's quality of life," says Dr. Walsh. "Patients are not fully satisfied with surgery until they regain good functional use of their hand." That's where hand therapists get involved.

"Hand therapists take over where surgeons leave off," says Lori Strand, OTR-L, CHT, who supervises the hand therapy department at Park Nicollet Clinic-Meadowbrook. Hand therapists often begin rehabilitation during the healing process by helping patients care for the wound and scar, and managing pain and swelling. Therapists also may customize splints to help keep joints positioned for proper healing.

Focusing on recovery

Shortly after a cast or dressings are removed, the goal is to restore activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed. Therapists help patients manage pain by teaching them relaxation techniques and providing treatments, such as ultrasound, electric stimulation devices, massage and exercise programs.

As healing progresses, subsequent goals are set, based on patients' needs and preferences. They can be as diverse as obtaining skills to return to work, participate in sports or play a musical instrument. "We also remind people that rehabilitation takes time," Strand says, "and that eating healthy and performing recommended exercises help the process."

Working as a team

Hand therapists and doctors often consult with each other throughout the healing and rehabilitation process - a collaborative approach that has proven to be mutually beneficial. "That's something I really like about this practice," Dr. Walsh says. "With the hand therapy department just down the hall, I am able to watch my patients' progress, which I find immensely rewarding."

Hand therapists also treat nonsurgical upper extremity injuries and ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, arthritis, sprains and strains.

Park Nicollet has hand therapy staff at several Park Nicollet Clinic locations, including Airport, Burnsville, Chanhassen, Hopkins, Maple Grove, Meadowbrook (St. Louis Park) and Wayzata. Referrals are accepted from any doctor, nurse practitioner or certified physician assistant.