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Advancing Care - 2024 | Issue 2

Hand Physical Therapy


When Physical Therapy Really Comes in “Handy”

How much do you think about your hands, aside from the occasional manicure or annoying hangnail? Maybe you work at a computer keyboard or play videogames for hours at a time. Or you might spend weekends tending to the garden, planting and pulling weeds. Your wrist hurts and your hand feels weak. Is it time to see a hand therapist? 

When conditions affect the hand, elbow or shoulder, spent with a certified hand therapist (CHT) may help prevent the need for surgery, according to Sepehr Sajjad, MD, chief of hand surgery at Lawrence + Memorial and Westerly hospitals. Dr. Sajjad sees patients with chronic and acute hand disorders such as carpal tunnel, trigger finger, hand and wrist fractures. “For many conditions that we treat, we prescribe hand therapy as conservative treatment instead of surgery,” he said. 

Hand therapy can be life-changing for many patients, added Carrie Swigart, MD, a hand surgeon with Yale New Haven Health and associate professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine. 

“Hand therapy with a certified hand therapist certainly does play an important role both after surgery and often in preparation for surgery,” she said. “But some hand and upper extremity problems can be either caused or exacerbated by poor body posture or muscle imbalances. For these patients, an evaluation and targeted exercise program designed by a CHT can improve their body mechanics and upper extremity muscle balance. In this way many patients can avoid surgery as well as improve their overall quality of life.” 

What is a certified hand therapist?

CHTs are occupational or physical therapists who have earned additional specialty certification, as they must pass an exam and log 4,000 hours of direct patient care. Their training focuses on injury prevention, condition improvement and recovery after surgery.

Time spent with a CHT may help you avoid common issues caused by repetitive movements over time. For example, a hairdresser who constantly uses a brush and scissors may develop arthritis in their thumb. CHTs can help patients adjust their biomechanics to avoid possible future injury or surgery. 

“People often don’t see a hand therapist until after they’ve had surgery, but there are so many things we can do preventatively,” said Mirka Normand, OT, a hand therapist at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. “We encourage people to talk to their medical provider to see if a referral to a CHT could be beneficial.” 

It’s important to find out what is causing the problem with your hand or wrist as well as how it is impacting your life. That information allows the CHT to tailor treatment designed to help you achieve your goals. 

Common conditions treated by CHTs include:
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Trigger finger, which is when a finger sticks in a bent position
  • Tenosynovitis, which is inflammation of the protective sheath that surrounds the tendons going to the hand
  • Hand and wrist injuries
  • Joint replacements
Samantha Limner, OT, a CHT at Westerly Hospital, also works with patients who have experienced diminished hand function due to muscle weakness, stiffness and changes in sensation following a stroke. 

“Hand therapists provide treatment, patient education and interventions to assist patients with their return to function. Seeing people regain use of their hands can be exciting and tremendously rewarding,” she said. 

Dr. Swigart urges people to take the first step and talk to their doctor. “The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome,” she said.

Learn more about Rehabilitation Services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital
Learn more about Rehabilitation Services at Westerly Hospital
Learn more about hand surgery at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital

How To Prevent Kidney Stones

If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know how painful it can be. The bad news? Once you’ve had a kidney stone, you have an increased risk of getting one again in the next five to 10 years. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital urologist Timothy Tran, MD, associate professor of Urology at Yale School of Medicine, offers insight into the causes and treatment of kidney stones.

Read more to Learn About How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Safe Sleep Guidelines for Babies Parents Need to Know

Every parent wants to protect their child from harm. While the first few weeks and months with a newborn baby can be hectic, one of the most important things a new parent can do is learn how to put their baby to sleep safely. In Connecticut, unsafe sleep is the leading cause of preventable infant death. What should you do to keep your baby safe? Learn more with our safe sleep guidelines.

Safe Sleep Guidelines for Babies Parents Need To Know

Free Hernia Screenings on June 8 and 15

In recognition of Hernia Awareness Month, Yale New Haven Health will offer free hernia screenings in June. 

Men and women can experience hernias. Typically, hernias can occur after childbirth, excessive lifting or straining, or a persistent or heavy cough. If left untreated, hernias may require surgery. When surgery is needed, Yale New Haven Health surgeons perform same-day, minimally invasive procedures using the latest da Vinci® robotic system so patients can recover faster. 

Schedule your free screening at one of these locations to meet one-to-one with an expert surgeon and see a demonstration of the da Vinci® robotic system: 

  • Saturday, June 8 
    9 am – noon 
    Location: Westerly Hospital, 25 Wells St., Westerly 
  • Saturday, June 15 
    9 am – noon   
    Pequot Health Center, 52 Hazelnut Hill Road, Groton

Walk-ins are welcome; however, registration is recommended by calling 800-562-2537 (Pequot) or 800-636-2824 (Westerly). You can also register online

YNHHS uses the terms "female" and "male" to reflect biological status typically assigned at birth, and "women" and "men" when referring to gender. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a doctor or midwife assigns a child's sex, male, female or intersex at birth based on their external anatomy. Gender identity is one's innermost identification of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither. Gender identification may differ from birth sex. 

Free Program at L+M about Cervical Cancer

Learn about how early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment for cervical cancer in a free program at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. “Cervical cancer screening and treatment” will be held from 5 - 6 pm on June 5 in L+M’s Baker Auditorium, 365 Montauk Ave., New London. Registration is required as attendance is limited. For details, call 1-800-562-2537 or register online.

Online Scheduling for Blood-Draw Appointments at YNHHS Locations

You can now make appointments online to have your blood drawn at 38 Yale New Haven Health outpatient blood draw locations throughout the region, including Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island. Schedule online by searching for a list of locations; those with online scheduling available will have a “book online” button in blue.

You must have a current order for blood or lab testing from your provider. YNHHS blood draw locations will accept orders for other labs such as Quest. 

Adults may make their own online appointments and appointments for children ages 1 - 17. Some locations also take appointments for infants under 1 year old (except Darien, Greenwich, Stamford, Rye Brook, Norwalk, Wilton).

If you do not see an appointment available at your desired date and time, you can still walk into a blood draw station without an appointment during business hours.

For more information, call Laboratory Medicine customer service at 1-800-305-3278, Monday – Friday, 7 am - 5 pm.

Find a Provider at L+M or Westerly Hospital

Are you looking for a physician? Call 833-346-3637 or visit our website’s “Find a Doctor” feature for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. Many of our physician practices offer telehealth video visits for your convenience. 

Billing questions? 

Yale New Haven Health offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 855-547-4584.