For those with an interest in ergonomics and the prevention of traumatic and repetitive injuries, June is the month to celebrate injury prevention.
The American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT) is sponsoring Hand Therapy Awareness and Injury Prevention Week from June 9-13, 2008. This week offers the opportunity for hand therapists to go into the community and provide information and tips for avoiding injuries.
Throughout the year, hand therapists provide a valuable service by helping those suffering from a hand or upper extremity injury to recover so that they can lead healthy and productive lives. Types of injuries treated by hand therapists may include accidental and traumatic (fractures, cuts, bumps, bruises, sprains, amputation, burns), repetitive (carpal tunnel, tendinitis, tennis or golfer's elbow, nerve compressions, muscle strains), arthritic and degenerative, and neurological.
However, it is just as important to provide information on how to reduce the risk of injury or how to prevent injuries as it is to treat injuries.
Although mainly a site for hand therapy professionals, the ASHT website at www.asht.org has some hidden gems for the consumer. The site offers descriptions of common injuries, an online referral directory of certified therapists and clinics, and the opportunity for those with questions about injuries to email a hand therapist. The Injury Prevention Tips section offers practical advice on avoiding injuries for specific activities such as gardening and using portable electronics.
For example, ASHT offers these guidelines for those who use hand held or portable electronic devices such as MP3 players, cell phones and portable video games:
- If you have pain during the activity, stop.
- Use a neutral grip when holding the device.
- Take a break every few minutes, or switch activities frequently.
- Support your arms on pillows or on a desk or tabletop.
- Sit in an appropriate chair.
- Switch hands frequently and vary the use of the fingers being used.
- Frequently look away from the screen to prevent eye strain.
Certified Hand Therapists are occupational or physical therapists who have received special training, who have met specific requirements, and who have passed a national certification examination in the treatment of hand and upper extremity injuries. To be certified shows a high-level of training and competence in the treatment of these injuries.
ASHT was founded in 1977 and provides support services to more than 3000 hand therapy professionals. It is a non-profit organization seeking to advance the specialty of hand therapy through education, communication, advocacy, research, and the establishment of clinical and ethical standards.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.