Upper extremity injuries are common and can range from mild strains of muscles to more devastating injuries such as fractures and deep lacerations. Patients are often referred to a certified hand therapist for care which may involve the application of a wrist/hand/forearm support known as an orthosis or more commonly, a splint. These provide a support mechanism to assist in decreasing pain, increasing function, and protection of a surgical site.
The creation of an orthosis requires a unique combination of the hand therapist's creative abilities and sound knowledge of the anatomical, physiological, and healing principles of the body as they relate to the specific injury, surgery, or disease process. Orthoses can be pre-made or custom tailored by the trained hand therapist to fit each individual's needs.
There are a variety of hand injuries that may require the use of an orthosis. Bone fractures, strained ligaments, torn muscles, arthritis, burns, nerve injuries, sprains, and hand surgery are all reasons that may justify application. Orthoses may be removable or permanent depending on the severity of the injury.
Common reasons to use an orthosis:
- Prevent or correct deformities
- Improve functional use of the arm or hand
- Increase or maintain range of motion
- Relieve pain
- Facilitate healing of structures
- Protect newly repaired tissues such as nerves/tendons/bones
- Stretch skin contractures and muscles
- Reduce pain by decreasing stress on joints