Arm Pain Treatment & Therapy
With all of the sports and work activities out there that require arm and hand movement, it is not surprising that arm injuries occur quite frequently in the population. From typing, to massaging; from industrial work, to racquet sports, we use our arms and our hands so frequently during our lives. A small injury, such as tendonitis, can considerable cripple us in our activities because most times the arm pain will spill into another daily activity – such as teeth brushing and feeding.
Upper arm pain or arm numbness is very common when you have tendonitis or a pulled bicep or tricep. Left arm pain can be the result of multiple ailments, the most serious being a possible heart issue. So, if you are experiencing left arm pain please consult with your doctor immediately. But, if your pain is in the right arm then you can consult one of our physical therapists for treatment today.
The following are the most common injuries seen in the arm (below the shoulder):
Hand Injury Therapy
A lot of hand and finger injuries involve finger tendons and their sheaths. Because of the daily use of our hands in our jobs, sports and activities of daily living like self-care, tendons of the hand can become overused and strained. Inflammation can ensue and this will limit movement of the hand and finger in their tendon sheaths. Other hand injuries can occur from lacerations, crush or sharp injuries to the hand. If untreated by a physical therapist, the fingers can very quickly form deformities and contractures from fibrous scar tissue. These deformities either restrict the finger’s ability to extend or bend and can cause disability on the patient in his/her ability to the use the hand.
Physical Therapy treatment to hand and finger injuries is to calm down inflammation and pain by way of cold therapy and manual therapy. The physical therapist will also have the patient perform range of motion activities, either passively or actively, to gain and maintain full range. Gradual progression of gripping and wrist exercises is prescribed so the patient can return to daily movements and activities. Bracing and splinting can also be altered weekly to preserve stability and protect the injured joint, but also account for gained range of motion in the finger.
Wrist Injury Treatment
Wrist injuries are most commonly started with frequent or heavy-load twisting and turning of the hands. Not a lot of muscles cross the area of the wrist joint, and because of the orientation of the wrist bones, there is a large degree with movement in this joint with not a lot of stability structures. If too much load is given to such a delicate structure, damage to the tendons that cross this joint can ensue.
Most wrist injuries come by way of a sprain – an unintended twist or bend of the wrist that goes farther than its normal range. Typical mechanisms of injury are: falling on your hand, hitting something at an unusual and unintended angle, manipulating a tool of a racquet past the point of comfort for a long period of time (such as in pulling levers or even in using hair dryer).
Physical therapy for wrist injuries involves soft tissue mobilization and massage to ease tension and pain. Progressive gripping exercises and wrist motions to normalize movement, and to strengthen for future use. Bracing the wrist is also very important in between visits of Physical Therapy so the joint is protected and not continuously aggravated by everyday movements.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs because of extra pressure on the carpal tunnel, a “tunnel” on the palmar side of the wrist where a lot of finger tendons and the median nerve lies. When excessive inflammation or pressure occurs at this area, the median nerve can get irritated and the patient will feel a mixture of discomfort, numbness or tingling into the hand. Physical Therapy is successful in treating the symptoms when they are acute. Physical Therapy treatments involve splinting, manual therapy, and exercise therapy to strengthen and stretch the structures of the wrist and hand.
The largest gains in treatment can be made through lifestyle and postural adjustments. Splinting of the wrist will avoid excessive bending and extending the wrist, thereby giving the wrist a rest. Also, postural adjustments at the patient’s work desk can help with minimizing strain of the wrist and arm.
When carpal tunnel syndrome occurs because of sport it is large due of improper handling of sports equipment. An adjustment in handle can help significantly with reducing strain and pressure on the wrist.
At times, neck and shoulder/elbow conditions can manifest themselves similarly to carpal tunnel syndrome. A physical therapist will help distinguish the difference, and also help you with necessary postural adjustments to avoid re-aggravation of your wrist and hand.
Tennis Elbow Therapy
A patient need not be playing tennis to get tennis elbow. The condition occurs when excessive strain has been given to the forearm extensor muscles and tendons. The lower arm pain can start in the forearm muscle belly, but can also begin on the outer aspect of the elbow. Thankfully, physical therapy is very effective in calming down tissue and tendon pain, and rarely does the patient need further intervention. (In chronic cases where the inflammation is stubborn, and the extensor tendon is damaged extensively, cortisone injection and surgery may be needed for full recovery.)
Most tennis elbow injuries begin because of over-gripping or overloaded wrist-twisting. This can happen at the workplace, while typing on the computer, or through racquet sports. Physical Therapy treatment includes soft tissue mobilization, cold and heat therapy, and gradual grip strengthening and wrist strengthening. Resistance training of proximal muscles such as the shoulder and upper back muscles also help offload the wrist muscles significantly by establishing a stable and strong base for upper extremity activities.
Stride Strong Physical Therapy has extensive experience treating arm injuries. We believe strongly in arm injury therapy, the healing power of strengthening and exercise, which is the crux for majority of arm injuries. Call us today and schedule an appointment at one of our Portland Physical Therapy clinics, so you can get back to feeling great.