Occupational Therapy Offers Relief For Hand Pain From Arthritis

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newsOccupational Therapist Roxanne Perry with Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training with tips on how OT can help manage osteoarthritis hand pain and prevent further joint damage.

Opening a jar, buttoning a shirt or brushing your teeth are everyday activities that feel far from routine for those with arthritis in their hands, a highly common condition causing pain and disability for millions of Americans. But occupational therapy, or OT, focusing on the hands can ease pain and increase range of motion for these patients, whether used on its own or after surgery, according to Roxanne Perry, a licensed occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training.

With 27 bones in each of our hands (including the carpals which are the small wrist bones and are often involved when a patient has arthritic pain) perhaps it’s not surprising that osteoarthritis is the most common cause of hand arthritis – a word that literally means “inflamed joint.” Osteoarthritis itself is the most common type of arthritis in the United States, affecting about 12% of American adults and occurring when the smooth cartilage covering joints gets worn away because of age or overuse – causing pain, stiffness, swelling and sometimes knobby finger joints.

Hand therapy is a specialized practice area among occupational therapists, who treat these patients to preserve or increase their hand mobility so they’re able to perform everyday tasks more easily and comfortably.

“As a non-surgical option or a way to boost your recovery from hand surgery, occupational therapy is tailored to fit each person’s individual situation and needs, both at home and at work,” says Perry, who has more than 20 years of clinical experience treating injuries of the upper extremity. “The ultimate goal is to restore and optimize the way your hands function as well as to improve your independence and overall quality of life.”

Preventing further joint damage

For those with hand osteoarthritis for which surgery isn’t recommended, OT serves a preventative role, Perry explains. Patients are taught ways to prevent further joint damage, which can include:

Splinting: Immobilizing affected joints, particularly at night, helps them rest when you do and cuts down on joint inflammation, pain and swelling, Perry says. Splints used during sleep are made of a thermoplastic material that stretch and mold closely to the shape of the hand, while neoprene splints may be prescribed during the day to allow movement while also providing support. An occupational therapist will ensure splints are fabricated and fitted to each patient’s needs.

Home exercise program: In addition to working with hand osteoarthritis patients during office visits, occupational therapists also teach them range-of-motion exercises and gentle strengthening techniques they can perform at home. These therapeutic movements may include finger touches, curls, stretches and bends. A typical OT schedule involves office visits twice each week for 4 to 6 weeks and is generally covered by insurance with a prescription.

Information on pain management: Occupational therapists can offer education about over-the-counter and other types of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain. Other pain management techniques may include soaking the hands in warm water or dipping them in warm paraffin wax. Additionally an OT can provide information on joint protection and adaptive equipment that can help increase patient’s independence.

“Avoiding further joint damage is a big part of effective treatment for hand arthritis,” Perry notes. “It’s not something you’d want to attempt without the guidance and expertise of an occupational therapist.”

If surgery needed, restoring strength and function

Surgery for osteoarthritis of the hand may be suggested when a patient either suffers from too much pain – a highly individual decision – or too little function. Surgical techniques can include; basal joint arthroplasty, also known as a joint replacement of the thumb, osteotomy, in which part of the bone of a joint is removed to realign the joint, and fusion of the joints, a procedure use when arthritis is particularly bad.

But even in this scenario, OT can play a crucial role in restoring a patient’s quality of life. If surgery is indicated, OT helps patients to manage post-operative pain; reduce swelling; promote wound care and healing; and restore range of motion, strength, and function.

“While a conservative, non-surgical approach is generally successful for managing hand osteoarthritis, sometimes surgery is the best course,” Perry says. “But either way, an occupational therapist can improve patients’ hand function and pain levels, reducing the stress on involved joints. OT shouldn’t be a last resort – it should be the first thought for people who develop hand arthritis.”

– Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training has provided personalized, integrative, and skilled one-on-one physical therapy services to residents of Westchester/lower Fairfield counties since 2001. http://www.armonkptst.com/ – Roxanne Perry, OTR, CHT, is a licensed occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training.

Baylor Expert Offers Tips For Successful College Transition

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Thank you to the Baylor College of Medicine for submitting this article…..

teensBack-to-school takes on new meaning for students heading off to college, with the focus shifting from new school supplies and clothes to developing time management and study skills and living on their own for the first time. A Baylor College of Medicine expert in family psychology offers some helpful tips.

“There are a number of issues that teens heading off to college for the first time may face,” said Dr. James Bray, professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. “It’s their first time away from home and living independently, and they don’t have the usual support system. For some, it’s the first time they’ve had to buckle down and study hard. It’s important for students to be prepared to develop new habits and seek out help if needed.”

Develop new routines and habits

Creating new habits and routine is key, Bray said. He suggests setting up regular study times and sticking to them. Students who struggle with getting to class on time or studying effectively may be able to find campus assistance. Many colleges and universities offer courses or workshops on these topics. Students also can seek out advice and help from a dormitory resident assistant, or RA.

Eating healthy and finding time for exercise also should be part of the new routine, Bray said. It will help students deal with stress, and keep off the so-called ‘Freshman 15.’ Many colleges have gym facilities and group exercises classes included as part of their fees, so students should take advantage of those programs. On the other hand, watch out for the unlimited food available in school dining halls.

Recognize feelings

Bray acknowledges that some students will start to feel anxious and homesick, or even depressed.

“It’s important to recognize these feelings and not just suffer in silence,” he said.

If needed, college students should head home for a weekend visit. Again, they should take advantage of campus resources such as counseling centers and RAs. Without seeking help, grades may begin to fall, Bray said.

Be aware of alcohol abuse

Another issue for college students to be mindful of is binge drinking, Bray said. This is more common among college freshmen and sophomores. By junior year, there is a decline in alcohol abuse; however, if it persists after this point, students may have trouble finishing school and moving on with successful careers.

He points out that underclassmen are typically underage, and drinking can have legal consequences with lifelong implications on their careers.

There also are serious potential health effects of binge drinking. “Anytime you drink five or more drinks on one occasion, it has implications for your health, including putting you at risk for injury and increasing your risk of sexually transmitted diseases and, for women, being victims of sexual assault.” What’s more, alcohol abuse can affect brain development, which continues until about age 22 or 23.

“College students need to be aware of the situations they are in, such as at parties or other college events where there is alcohol,” he said. Stick with friends, have a cell phone charged, limit alcohol intake and trust instincts.

Finally, Bray said to remember that students living in dorms are in close quarters and illnesses can spread quickly. Students should stay up to date on vaccinations and seek out healthcare if they aren’t feeling well, before it leads to missed class time.

Worm Offers Clues To Obesity

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newspaperFrom Your Health Journal…..”I do enjoy many articles on the Medical Xpress web site. They always have up to date material, as well as exciting new finds, so I do try to promote their site to my visitors as much as possible. Their site is very reliable, good ratings – so please go there for some exciting news. Today’s article was written by Sathya Achia Abraham entitled Worm Offers Clues To Obesity. I know some of you are saying to yourself, ‘wow, that sounds likes like a headline from one of the gossip magazines.’ But, with science, anything is possible. Obesity rates are growing all over the world. Adults and children show many risk factors for heart disease, cancers, type 2 diabetes, low self esteem, weak joints, and other chronic illness – all related to weight gain. So many people are becoming very sedentary due to all the advancements in technology, busy lifestyles, or their environment. Many people are looking for solutions and answers as to why we cannot control it. Yes, the obvious answer, eat right and exercise. But, even though many know this, it still is not happening. So, science experiments to look for solutions as well. Now, a transparent, bacteria-eating roundworm known as Caenorhabditis elegans – measuring approximately 1 mm in length – may provide researchers some insight into factors that contribute to obesity. Researchers suggest that C. elegans has the ability to remember specific food – it feeds on bacteria – after it experiences it and consumes what is familiar more actively than food that is not. This same behavior also is observed in humans. Please visit the Medical Xpress web site (link provided below) to read the complete article. I found it very interesting.”

From the article…..

As obesity rates continue to rise, experts are searching for answers in the clinic and at the lab bench to determine the types and amounts of food that people should eat.

Now, a transparent, bacteria-eating roundworm known as Caenorhabditis elegans – measuring approximately 1 mm in length – may provide researchers some insight into factors that contribute to obesity.

New findings reported by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researchers suggest that C. elegans has the ability to remember specific food – it feeds on bacteria – after it experiences it and consumes what is familiar more actively than food that is not. This same behavior also is observed in humans. The study was published Feb. 5 in the online journal eLIFE.

The VCU team found that preference for familiarity is mediated by a pair of serotonergic neurons in the nervous system of C. elegans. The team observed that the activity of the serotonergic neurons is suppressed selectively by taste and/or smell of novel food (bacteria).

“We have discovered how food experience, an acquired factor that significantly affects food consumption, regulates food consumption,” said principal investigator Bo-Mi Song, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the VCU School of Medicine.

“Because of the suppression, the serotonergic neurons are more active in response to familiar food than novel food, which in turn activates a humoral serotonin signal that increases the feeding response selectively in response to familiar food,” she said.

To read the full article…..Click here

Mouse Study Offers Clues To Obesity-Diabetes Link

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From Your Health Journal…..”For years, we have seen a direct correlation between obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many years ago, type 2 diabetes was known as non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult onset diabetes. Sadly, many children developed the ‘adult onset’ diabetes – kinda seemed hard to keep that name?? In most cases, type 2 diabetes is environmental, and controllable by the individual who contracted it. A healthy diet and exercise may be enough to end it for many, for others, not so lucky. So, when this breakthrough in the mice in this study came through, many were happy to read that ‘blocking the body’s inflammation response to high-fat foods’ may help lower the risks of type 2 diabetes. The study saw the results in mice, but they are not sure about how it may effect humans. But….promising to read.

From the article…..

Researchers hope to cut the connection between fatty diet and insulin resistance, but it’s complicated

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are clearly intertwined, but researchers say they’ve found a way to weaken the connection between the two — at least in mice.

The key, they say, is blocking the body’s inflammation response to high-fat foods.

In this study, published online Dec. 6 in the journal Science, the researchers turned off the JNK (pronounced “junk”) genetic pathway in mice, and fed the rodents high-fat diets. Even though the mice became obese, they didn’t develop insulin resistance, a forerunner to diabetes.

Other similarly stuffed mice with intact JNK pathways, however, became insulin resistant.

Although the results look promising, it’s too early to say whether the findings might apply to humans.

“Everybody has these genes, and they’re present within all cells of your body all the time,” said study author Roger Davis. “What they do is respond to the diet that you’re eating. So if you eat a high-fat, cafeteria diet, it leads to the activation of the protein products — the enzymes — of these genes.”

Davis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Worcester, Mass., and his colleagues studied hundreds of mice over multiple years to examine the relationship between inflammation and diabetes.

“What we discovered is the JNK genes in the macrophages are critical for the ability of macrophages to cause inflammation, specifically in response to feeding or eating a high-fat diet,” Davis said.

To read the full story…..Click here