Hand Therapy and Soft Tissue Treatment

In the past, depending on the patient’s injury, diagnosis, and symptoms, I have used transverse friction massage, myofascial release, trigger point release, lymphedema massage and scar massage to deal with restrictions, fibrosis, or pain in the soft tissues.  Five years ago, my patient load was about 90% cumulative trauma injuries.  My frustration with my inability to adequately and consistently help these patients, many of them work comp patients, lead me to the Astym technique and training.  Eureka!  First of all, the theory behind the technique makes so much sense. Second, treating the whole arm with these patients? Hello!  Third, the square footage treated in a short time is very efficient, just what our current health care industry demands.  Fourth, Occupational Therapists are all about function, and with Astym, activity is encouraged during treatment!  And last, but not least, the Astym tools are ergonomic.

Astym has been a valuable addition to my toolbox.  I still use all the other soft tissue treatment  techniques, frequently more than one technique on the same patient in the same therapy session.  I always use my hands at some point to address soft tissue dysfunction.  My fingertips can tell me more about the injury than any other evaluative tool.

A couple years ago a co-therapist was treating a woman for tennis elbow who was originally from China.  She and her husband had moved to the US about 10 years previously.  Her husband attended every therapy session with her.  He was very interested in the Astym tools and admitted that he had been treating his wife’s arm with a kitchen spoon before she went to the doctor and started therapy.  He said this is a very common practice in China to use tools to work on soft tissue pain.  In ancient times, tools were made from animal bones and horns.  There’s something reassuring about the fact that successful treatment of injuries dates back to the more holistic approach honored by Eastern medicine!

In fact, in the very beginning of the research that led to the development of Astym treatment, the researchers looked into many old-style manual therapies and reviewed their effectiveness and limitations.  This investigation led to new theories that are now the foundation of Astym.  There are key differences that separate Astym from soft tissue mobilization. To read more about these differences, click here.

 

Meet Today’s Guest Blogger:

Maureen Scanlan, OTR/L, CHT

Maureen Scanlan, OTR/L, CHT works at St. Croix Orthopaedics in Stillwater Minnesota as the lead hand therapist.  She has 33 years of experience as a therapist, 20 of those specializing in hand therapy.  Her work experience includes Mental Health/Chemical Dependency, Cardiac Rehab, Industrial rehab, Ergonomics, and Hand Therapy.  Maureen has a BA from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN.  She has been a Certified Hand Therapist since 2003.

Twenty years as a hand therapist has convinced me that nearly every patient with an upper extremity injury or surgery will benefit from one or more types of soft tissue treatment  at some point during the course of their therapy.

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