Six Q & As with Kathi Thomson, Summit County’s Only Certified Hand Therapist
Hand therapy is a growing practice in the United State due to hand pain, lack of motion and even lack of grip. Kathi Thomson, a certified hand therapist at Howard Head Sports Medicine, has over 12 years of hand-specific experience. Following are a few question-and-answers with Kathi.
Q: What kinds of problems do people with hand problems face?
A: Hand and wrist problems create great functional limitations like being unable to grip a steering wheel, hold a ski pole or a glass or pinch and turn a key.
Q: Why do people get hand joint pain?
A: Probably the most common diagnoses causing actual joint pain, is some form of arthritis or wear and tear. This can occur as we age, but also in young active individuals who have sustained injuries that were not addressed. For example a bad sprain or ligament injury left untreated will cause bones to shift over time – causing abnormal stress on the surrounding joints.
Q: What can you do to relieve hand and joint pain?
A: Depending on the cause of pain, different treatments would be appropriate. For example: splinting or taping to provide needed joint stability, things like ultra sound or iontophoresis for inflammation, stretches or gliding exercises for tight muscles and tendons. As a hand therapist, I use a wide range of treatments depending on the problems and goals.
Q: Is surgery always necessary?
A: No! A large portion of my practice is working with hand surgeons, however surgery is not always necessary and often, patients are referred to therapy when non-operative treatment is the treatment of choice. There are many injuries and conditions where surgery is necessary but once the surgeon has corrected the problem, patients often need therapy to ensure the best possible outcome and return to the desired movement and function.
Q: What should people do it they have chronic hand pain?
A: If someone has chronic hand or wrist pain they should see a specialist to determine the cause. Often people think a condition is one thing when, in fact, it could be something completely different. Or people think some pain will “go away with time”, when it could be a condition that will only worsen if left untreated. When in doubt, get it checked out!
Q: How did you end up in Summit County and why hand therapy?
A: I am originally from New York, where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Occupational Therapy and a Master’s of Art in Applied Physiology from Columbia University. I worked in a New York hospital for nine years, before moving to Summit where I met my (now) husband 22 years ago and never left. I have specialized in hand therapy at Howard Head Sports Medicine since 2000 and earned my credential as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) in 2002. I am passionate about my work – it is truly an amazing specialty. I particularly enjoy working with patients who have suffered complicated traumatic injuries. Away from work I enjoy hiking, skate skiing and spending time with my husband, Mark, who is the Fire Chief at Copper Mountain.
Could Hand Therapy Be Right For You? Ask Your Doc. Hand Therapy Treats:
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
• Fractures of the upper extremity
• Trigger fingers
• Trauma to tendons
• Dupuytren's contracture
• Boutonniere deformity
• Nerve compression syndromes (cubital tunnel, carpal tunnel syndrome or thoracic outlet syndrome)
• Amputations and replantations
• Birth defects
• Tendonitis (tennis elbow, golfers elbow)
• Thoracic outlet syndrome
To learn more about Kathi and the benefits available through hand therapy, please call Howard Head Sports Medicine at (970) 668-3169 or ask your primary provider if hand therapy is right for you.