Our hands do a lot of work — literally — and we don’t always think about how frequently and forcefully we use them. Whether grasping, holding, typing, writing or much more, these important upper extremities need protection and TLC just like other areas of the body.

Dana Cumberworth PA-C, physician assistant at OrthoCarolina, specializes in hand orthopedics and works with patients who have overuse pain and injuries. According to Dana, while our hands take on a lot of repetitious tasks we often take them for granted until a problem presents itself.

“Our hands are so overused and when they start to limit us from doing something it’s really detrimental,” Dana said. “If you have an ache or pain that starts to develop it’s important to pay attention to that and not ignore it.”

We think about stretching our backs, massaging our necks and taking care of the part of our bodies that work hardest, but hands can be overlooked. Furthermore, there aren’t many proactive ways to prevent hand injury due to overuse since many of the tasks our hands take on are necessary for our daily lives and occupations. What we can do is give them a little care.

Dana recommends three specific ways to keep your hands healthy:

1. STRETCH

We often stand up from a seated position and arch our backs or come home after a long day at work and stretch our shoulders. Our hands can also benefit from this treatment. Activities like yoga will naturally include movements that stretch the muscles and tendons in our hands, but proactive focused stretching works wonders.

Remember that the tendons moving our fingers extend all the way to our elbows. Concentrate on stretching each finger, your wrist and your forearm.

Seeing a massage therapist? Asking for some focus on your hands and forearms is a great practice. After long days in the clinic and in surgery, Dana employs this practice herself.

 

2. APPLY HEAT

Applying heat to our hands, wrists and forearms is soothing, but also assures good blood flow. This can be especially relieving in the winter when joints get stiff and achy. A heating pad can do the trick but so can a nice hot bath or shower.

3. ERGONOMIC EVALUATION

Overuse pain and injuries of the hand can be especially tricky since their daily tasks are often things that can’t be reduced or eliminated from our routines.

“There’s nothing magic that can make these things feel better,” Dana says. “Let’s get to the source of the way you’re doing things and make changes there.”

An ergonomic evaluation of your work station is simple but can pay off quickly. Dana often writes prescriptions for and recommends that patients have a professional conduct an evaluation and says many companies provide these resources to employees who need them.

“Talk with your company, ask your manager,” Dana said. “It’s just as advantageous to employers to have team members who are efficient and aren’t taking days off work due to pain.”

Dana Cumberworth, PA-C, works with the OrthoCarolina Hand Center.

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