Rehabilitation After Hand Surgery

Hand surgery, which is performed by orthopedic, plastic or general surgeons who have completed additional training, is used to treat problems involving the hand, wrist and forearm. Although the goal of hand surgeons is to treat problems nonsurgically, in certain instances, when other treatments have failed, surgery may be necessary. Setting fractures, treating rheumatoid arthritis, eliminating carpal tunnel pain, and correcting birth defects are four areas in which surgery may be required.

After hand surgery, the area operated on is usually immobilized in a cast or splint. When the cast or splint is removed, often after a number of weeks, physical therapy may be required to restore strength and range of motion.

Rehabilitation should take place only under the direction of a physical therapist specifically trained in the hand. Depending upon the reason for surgery, treatment may include the following:

  • Hand exercises
  • Heat treatment
  • Massage therapy
  • Electrical nerve stimulation

Occupational therapy, which focuses on specific exercises to help patients recover the skills they use in daily living and at work, may also be performed. How long physical therapy continues depends upon the particular surgery and what it corrected.

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