What is hand, wrist and elbow physical therapy and rehabilitation?

It's easy to take your hands, wrists and elbows for granted — until something injures them or they're hurting. If you've broken, sprained or had surgery on your hand, wrist or elbow, you likely need physical therapy and rehabilitation. Physical therapy exercises are part of your overall rehabilitation program. The exercises bring mobility and strength back to your hand, wrist or elbow. This part of rehabilitation helps you get back to your daily routine.

Doctors prefer to avoid surgery on your hands or wrists unless it's the only option. Often, physical therapy alone works well to eliminate pain. If physical therapy works to reduce your pain, you can avoid surgery.

Elbows are different from hands and wrists. You may not need surgery if you sprained your elbow. When an arthritic elbow wears out, the joint may need a replacement. Elbow replacement is like hip and knee replacement surgery. The surgery after-care requires physical therapy and rehabilitation. Physical therapy exercises increase your range of motion.

What to expect during hand, wrist and elbow physical therapy and rehabilitation

When you injure or have surgery on your hand or wrist, you need to wear wear a cast or splint for a while. After it comes off, physical therapy helps keep your hand or wrist from locking up. Hand and wrist therapy may include stretching exercises and mild electrical current therapy, also called ultrasound. Ultrasound therapy brings blood circulation to the area for faster recovery. It's important to move your fingers through exercise while your injury is healing. That can keep them from becoming cramped and stiff.

It's important to rehabilitate your elbow. Elbow movement allows you to do simple tasks such as pouring a drink into a glass. Physical therapy for your elbow helps it bend and extend. The treatments also help you turn your arm over. 

Common conditions that may require hand, wrist and elbow physical therapy and rehabilitation

Your hand, wrist and elbow are complex parts of your body with lots of tissues, bones and joints. That means they're at risk for injury. There are many conditions and injuries that benefit from physical therapy and rehabilitation, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Tendinitis
  • Trigger finger
  • Nerve injuries
  • Ligament tears
  • Wrist fractures
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tennis and golfer's elbow
  • De Quervain's tenosynovitis
  • Broken wrist, hand, fingers or elbow

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