The arm and hand allows us to interact with the world around us, and is highly mobile with the ability to perform very skilled movements which allow us to complete day to day activities from using our phones and tablets to picking up objects, opening jars, turning pages, sorting coins, and eating food. After neurological disease, disorder or injury, it is common to experience weakness, changes in sensation, muscle tightness and spasticity, all of which impact our ability to use the arm and hand effectively.
Upper limb rehabilitation aims to target areas of weakness, tension or altered sensation to restore as much function and independence as possible in each individual’s case. Where rehabilitation of the legs often focuses on gross, powerful movements to improve absolute strength and stability, upper limb rehabilitation focuses on fine, repetitive task-specific practice to restore functional movement patterns and control, to re-establish patterns of movement within the brain and benefit from the effects of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain and nervous system to change and form new pathways and connections).
At PhysioFunction we investigate the structure and function of the upper limb, including the trunk, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers/thumb and provide individualised and goal-based physiotherapy interventions. We utilise the Rehabilitation Triad, combining hands on physiotherapy with exercise and rehabilitation technology.
Hands on physiotherapy for the upper limb involves therapeutic handling of the body to increase or decrease muscle tone, release tight muscles, re-educate patterns of movement and improve the ability of the individual to use their muscles effectively.
Repetitive task-specific exercise is key to recovery of upper limb function in the presence of a neurological condition and needs to be completed regularly, ideally daily. Exercises would commonly involve specific stretches and strengthening movements, coupled with task specific actions of either complete tasks (for example bringing a cup to the mouth to take a drink) or component parts of a task (for example reaching forwards to grasp a cup) depending on the ability of the individual.
Integrating rehabilitation technology into physiotherapy treatment assists with maximising the effectiveness of therapy, and in some cases can be used as a long-term functional tool. At Physiofunction we employ a vast array of rehabilitation technology for the upper limb, including the use of mobile arm support devices, robotic and pneumatic hand therapy devices, virtual reality and gaming devices, functional electrical stimulation (FES) and orthotics.