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Taking Ccre of our hands

By Michelle Fortune

Healthcare Umbrella

Every year when we celebrate Labor Day, I find my internet feed flooded with pictures celebrating the economic and social contributions made by workers across our country. Many of those pictures showcase people using their hands. Whether you are a nurse, a carpenter, a mechanic, a doctor, an accountant, or a farmer, chances are the use of your hands is very important to your role.

On an average day, our hands do so much work. We use them to prepare our meals, drive our vehicles, perform our work activities, and care for the ones that we love. What an essential tool our hands are to us! We want to help you keep your hands healthy and functioning well. We are so fortunate at St Luke’s to have Karol S. Young, OTD, OTR/L, CHT on our team! Karol is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist. I felt it would be beneficial for us to gain some thoughts from Karol to help protect your hands.

Karol has shared the following:

“If you stop to think about it, our hands are always in motion. They do get rest at night while we are sleeping; however, morning may be the time when you notice that your hands are feeling stiff, painful, or weak, limiting your ability to grip tightly. These symptoms may worsen as we age and maybe an early sign of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is commonly seen in the hands and occurs when the cartilage between bones becomes thin or worn out. If the cartilage layer becomes too thin, it can prevent the bones in the joints from moving smoothly, causing pain and appearance changes. Osteoarthritis in the hand is usually caused by “wear and tear.” But other risk factors include age, gender, injury, and family history. The good news is that you can minimize pain and stiffness by modifying your activities and making a conscious effort to protect the joints in your hands.

Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Whenever possible, use larger joints rather than the small ones. Carry a bag on your shoulder rather than clutching it with your hand.
  • When lifting heavy objects or performing functions where a tight grip is required, use two hands rather than one.
  • Avoid putting stress on your hands by reducing the effort and force that you use when holding or grasping objects.
  • Make sure that you take frequent rest breaks, pace yourself, ask for help, and respect your pain.
  • And lastly, heat may assist in decreasing the feeling of joint stiffness. Therefore, holding that first-morning cup of hot coffee may get both you and your hands moving.”

Following Karol’s advice may help you find more comfort and additional longevity for your hands. But if you continue to have pain, you may benefit from a referral to see her. As a Certified Hand Therapist, Karol can determine strategies that may reduce your pain and stiffness. After a visit with her, you may learn that resting, positional splints, adaptive equipment to assist with performing a specific task, or specialized a exercise program are necessary to keep your hands healthy and moving.

To make and out-patient appointment with Karol, you will need to obtain an order from your physician. To reach Karol, call 828-894-8419.

To learn more about hand therapy, or any of the services at St. Luke’s Hospital, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or visit our website at SaintLukesHospital.com.

You can also contact Michelle Fortune at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org.