Hand therapy

For the last several weeks to a month, I’ve been having pain in my wrists and thumbs.  My doctor diagnosed it as De Qervain’s Tenosynovitis.  I read up on that and basically it has to do with the tendons that go to the thumbs and the sheath that wraps tightly around the wrists.  My doctor referred me to a hand surgeon who in turn referred me to a hand therapist.  Today was my first day with the hand therapist.

I have been wearing wrist braces for several weeks.  They didn’t help entirely, but they were the best I could do.  The first thing the hand  therapist said was, “We’re going to take those off you and you’re never going to wear them again!”  Apparently, since wrist braces don’t immobilize the thumbs, they can do more harm than good.  Instead, the therapist made me some new braces right there on the spot.  The process was so interesting I thought I’d write about it.

The therapist put a whitish board that looked like peg board on the table under my arms.  He drew the outline of my arm, wrist and palm, but he drew it out about half an inch from my arm.  Then he used a box cutter to cut a rectangle around each drawing.  When the rectangles were cut out, he threw them into water that was heated to 170 degrees for about a minute.  When he pulled them out, they were soft and pliant.  He was then able, with a pair of scissors that he has sharpened every month, to cut out the shape of my hand and arm.  He put the form in the hot water again and dried it off, and then he molded it to my arm.  He had made a shape on the palm that could be bent to go over the inner part of my thumb and connect with the larger shape he’d cut out to go around the outer area of my thumb.  As the plastic cooled and hardened, he pulled the form off my hand and heated the thumb piece up so he could cut it and shape it so that I can bend my thumb from the halfway point.  (What is that joint called?)

Once he was happy with the shape of the mold, he attached Velcro to it in several places.  He cut what looks like a sock the length of my arm, and he cut a hole in it for my thumb.  He put the sock on my arm and hand, and then put the mold back on.  Next he put some black padding around the brace in the areas where he’d put the Velcro.  For the top piece of padding, he cut it in half lengthwise a little over half the way down.  This was so that the padding could go over and around my thumb.

I am finding that my range of motion is even more limited now than it was in the wrist brace.  I’m going to have to learn what I can do in these braces.  Twisting my arms is completely out of the question as the brace hits my wrist and hurts.  Typing this has been challenging because I have a hard time reaching the shift button with my right pinkie.  If you find any typos, please excuse!  I had to have Mark zip and unzip my coat for me and pull my hood up because I can’t bend my wrists.  I hope I don’t have to wear the braces for very long!

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