Carol Evans is busier than ever since she and her husband retired, so when arthritis pain in her right hand began holding her back from the things she wanted to do, she knew it was time to seek help.
“When I would drive, I had pain gripping the steering wheel,” she says. Twisting round doorknobs and opening the refrigerator and dryer doors also gave her trouble. Sometimes the pain would awaken her at night.
The arthritis in Carol’s hand was especially painful in one finger, and her hand surgeon said she could have the middle joint replaced. Having had two knees replaced years earlier, she was already familiar with joint replacement and underwent surgery in January. Carol then chose the Outpatient Therapy Center at Summerlin Hospital to help restore her functioning to an optimum level.
“The goal was to first get mobility back in the joint, and then to work on strength,” explains Summerlin Hospital’s Outpatient Therapy Services Manager and Occupational Therapist Lisa Patterson, OTR/L. Sessions included electrical stimulation, massage and teaching Carol about splinting options, icing and elevation to control swelling. Carol also worked on numerous exercises, including one with “theraputty” (similar to playdough), which builds strength by providing resistance when you manipulate it. “The grandkids thought it was wonderful,” says Carol, whose grandchildren had fun making snakes with her therapy “clay.”
Since beginning outpatient therapy, Carol now performs everyday tasks with minimal pain. “I’ve been very impressed with Summerlin Hospital,” she says, remarking on the attentive, individualized care she received. The one-on-one support enabled her to make the most of her therapy sessions, she says, and return to the active life she loves.
Help to Keep Your Hands in Play
With age, it’s natural to lose some hand strength due to changes in the muscular, skeletal and nervous system, explains Ariana Korpela, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist at Spring Valley Hospital’s Outpatient Therapy Center. Certain conditions, such as arthritis, can also contribute.
Lisa Patterson cautions that weakness in the hand can lead to weakness throughout the entire arm due to disuse; therefore, talk with your doctor if you have concerns. Pain, functional limitations and loss of independence are signs that you may benefit from outpatient therapy, which can help restore or compensate for deficiencies, and teach about assistive devices and ways to modify your tasks or environment. Therapists can also help patients who are recovering from a stroke or other medical conditions.
Things You Can Do
Taking protective measures – for instance by using larger, stronger joints when possible – can be beneficial, Korpela notes. For example, instead of carrying many small plastic grocery bags, which can put pressure on small hand joints, try using a larger bag and hold it from the bottom with two hands, to get support from the shoulders and elbows. Also, remember that being sedentary can lead to a reduction in overall strength, so try to stay active, Patterson says.
To maintain mobility and strength, Korpela suggests simple exercises such as: bending your wrist forward and away from you; making a fist and opening it wide; and squeezing a “stress” ball. These can be done in sets of 10 once or twice a day. Assistive devices like a non-skid grip to open jars can also help with everyday tasks, so you can hold onto the independence you enjoy.
Helpful Tip: If you’re having trouble opening the tops of your medicine bottles, talk with your pharmacist about changing the lids to “easy caps.” Certified Pharmacy Technician Daniel Wyland, of CentRx Pharmacy at Desert Springs Hospital, says all you need to do is ask. “That’s why we’re here, to help patients be well and stay well,” he says.
For more information about our services, please contact one of our Outpatient Therapy Centers at the phone numbers below.
Centennial Hills Hospital
6900 N. Durango Drive
Las Vegas, NV
Desert View Hospital
360 S. Lola Lane
Spring Valley Hospital
5380 S. Rainbow Boulevard, Medical Office Building I
Las Vegas, NV
653 N. Town Center Drive, Summerlin Medical Office Building
Las Vegas, NV