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When Thumbs Are a Pain in the Hand

By Teresa DuFresne, OTR/L, CHT Occupational Therapy, Certified Hand Specialist

professional headshot of a womanPlaying sports, cooking, gardening, styling your hair, or playing with your children are all important moments in your day. When thumb pain interrupts your daily routine, the “must do’s” and “want to do’s” can be impacted, regardless of how big or small the pain may seem.

There are ways to work with and adapt to thumb pain. Sometimes it is how you approach your daily routine, as in the case of arthritis. When it is a thumb break or sprain, rehab and specific strengthening exercises are used to treat the pain. Custom-made splints can help with pain and improve participation in sports, gardening, and many other activities.

Rather than feeling pain, maybe your thumb feels weaker than usual, unstable, or uncoordinated. There are exercises and techniques to help that as well. A referral to occupational therapy or a certified hand therapist can help you and your symptoms!

What is a Certified Hand Therapist?

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is a physical or occupational therapist who has additional certification specializing in the upper extremity. The title “CHT” is misleading because they work on hands plus the entire arm from the neck to the hands and fingers. The advanced training and rigorous certification process providers a higher level of care and greater outcomes for patients to achieve their goals.

Why ask for a referral to a certified hand therapist specifically?

Therapists who have become a CHT have achieved the highest competency and advanced skill set for the upper body. Due to this area’s complexity, a CHT has attained the level of experience to best treat simple and complex injuries to the hand and arm, while keeping costs low. It is a client-based approach to treatment, making sure each session is tailored to the person’s needs.

CHT’s use different assessments, provocative testing, and measurements to ensure that all problem areas are being addressed with the correct exercises to get you back to where you were before pain, weakness or loss of motion took over.

Diagnoses typically treated include:

  • Fractures (shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger)
  • Dislocations (shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger)
  • Tendinopathies (i.e. DeQuervains, intersection syndrome, tennis or golfers elbow, etc.)
  • TFCC tears and Carpal instabilities
  • Arthritic management, joint protection techniques
  • Tendon repairs (flexor, extensor, bicep, tricep, rotator cuff, etc.)
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Arthroplasties, Total Shoulder Arthroplasties, CMC arthroplasty, or other joint replacements within the wrist and hand
  • Ligamentous sprains and strains (impacting function of shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingers)
  • Nerve entrapment syndromes (i.e. cubital tunnel, Guyon’s canal, carpal tunnel, radial tunnel, Wartenburgs syndrome, etc.)
  • and more

If you have questions or are interested in receiving specialized therapy services, please contact your physician for a referral or call the therapy department at 320.634.2015.