OT and Custom Splints: Keeping It Straight!

April is National Occupational Therapy Month! To kick it off, we wanted to dive into one of the most adaptable aspects of occupational therapy-splinting! A splint is a device worn on an affected area and can be used to immobilize, mobilize, restrict, support, or protect a body part.

What is OT, you ask?

Occupational Therapy is a rehabilitation discipline focused on maximizing one’s independence performing meaningful tasks. That means that we can treat you for problems you have when performing daily activities, work duties, or even leisurely pursuits and make these tasks easier for you. Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal.

What can OTs treat?

In our clinics, we see many different types of complaints including, but not limited to pain and weakness in any joint or area of the arm and shoulder, fractures of any part of the arm, rotator cuff injuries, shoulder pain with scapular dysfunction, nerve injuries/palsies, and many more. OTs can even conduct driver assessments and wheelchair evaluations. We also go beyond physical treatment and can help enable people with cognitive impairments including cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the list goes on. For a full list of everything our OTs can treat, check out our diagnoses list!

How do OTs treat?

Our treatments usually involve a combination of exercise, activity practice, activity modification, and massage/manual therapy. Each session will be adjusted to meet your specific needs that day to ensure that you are getting the most out of every appointment. Also, you will have an individualized home exercise program to continue your progress when you are not in the clinic. And of course, our treatments are interactive and fun!

Splints

You have probably seen splints in stores such as CVS and Walgreens. However, they often don’t do the job quite right and that’s where custom splinting comes in! Our occupational therapists are trained to make a variety of finger, hand, wrist, and elbow splints that are customized for each condition and individual. The process is relatively simple and can be done during your first visit with a prescription. Most people find our custom splints more comfortable than those bought at a store. And even better, our custom splints are covered by most insurances!

Common diagnoses that our therapists make splints for include:

  •         Carpal tunnel syndrome
  •         Wrist sprain
  •         Wrist clicking
  •         Carpal instability
  •         Thumb arthritis
  •         Trigger finger
  •         Mallet finger
  •         Tennis elbow
  •         All types of fractures

We will fully assess your condition and needs to determine the best splint and adjust it for your unique needs!

The Splinting Process

The process of making a splint is surprisingly quick and easy! First, our therapists will perform a full assessment of your condition and what you need to do. Then, we will design a paper pattern for the splint sketching around your arm and try it on to ensure it meets your unique needs. Next, we will heat a special thermoplastic in warm water to make it soft. After cutting the material to match the pattern, we reheat it to a moldable, but comfortable, temperature. We will then apply the warm material to the affected area and ensure proper fit and position while the splint cools and firms (most people really enjoy how warm this feels!) Finally, we will fine-tune the splint to maximize comfort and add Velcro straps. Most splints only take 15-20 minutes to make!

 

OT making custom splint

Jon, OTR/L, making a custom splint in our clinic.

 

If you have any problems with a finger, hand, wrist, or elbow, then you should call in and ask to speak with one of our Occupational Therapists. We can discuss your specific condition, give immediate advice, and tell you if therapy, including a custom splint, is right for you. Often, we can see you in the clinic within 1-2 business days!

 

Safe Squats: Proper Form and Common Mistakes

Buckling Knees

Proper squat form is one of the most popular topics with the popularity of weight lifting. One common mistake when squatting is knee valgus. Knee valgus is when your knees move inward towards midline during functional movements. This usually occurs when your hip adductors (the muscles on the inside of your thighs) overpower your hip abductors (the muscles on the outside of your thighs). Over time, not correcting this mistake could lead to injuries. To correct knee valgus, start with a resistance band above the knees to help give you a tactile cue of pressing out against the band as you are squatting. Your knees should align with the second to third toe during the movement pattern.  Having the band guide your knees outward will help you activate your abductors and lead to better knee alignment in your squats.

Brace Your Core

One of the most important components of a squat is making sure you have properly activated your core. By engaging the core, the spine is braced not allowing for flexion or extension during the movement. Your low back should not round or have an excessive arch. Your hips should flex during a squat without movement at the lumbar spine. Start with unloaded squats to master your pattern. Use a wand or broom stick pressed against your back to see how much your back moves during your squat. The goal is to maintain the same contact and distance with the broom stick throughout the full movement.

Watch Your Neck!

Be mindful of your head and neck position during your squats. Do not lead with the crown of your head! You should not be looking up and have excessive extension through your neck. This is a common mistake that often goes unnoticed. You want to have neutral neck position and keep your eyesight gazing about six to eight feet in front of you. Imagine a dowel running from ear to ear. Do a chin tuck about that axis and maintain that position without moving your head or neck throughout the squat.

Knees Over Toes

A common myth about squatting is “Don’t let your knees go past your toes!” This is a great cue for some people, but remember, everyone’s structure is different. Center mass of load, femur length, shin length, and foot length all play a roll in knee positioning during squatting. If you have long legs and small feet, it would be hard to find a squat position where your knees don’t go over your toes. Hip and knee flexion should happen at a 1:1 ratio during the squatting motion. In short, your knees and hips should both be moving equally and together. The thought is that if we ban our knees going over our toes, then we have reduced the torque on our knees. However, that torque is then translated to the hip joint. Fry, Smith, and Schilling reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that when blocking the knees, we reduce torque by 22% at the knee joint, but increase torque at the hips by 1,070%. We have also changed the angle of the hip joint which increases the moment arm and puts more stress on the lumbar spine. Therefore, the stress you save your knees is multiplied and wreaks havoc on other parts of your body like your hips and back! In summary, sometimes the knees should not track over the toes, but sometimes they should. This cue is not a “one size fits all” cue. An individual’s structure and the type of movement performed dictate knee positioning. There is a place for both methods in training and rehabilitation.

Schedule an appointment at one of our 12 locations throughout the Greenville, Anderson, Spartanburg, Belton, Boiling Springs, Fort Mill, Powdersville, Seneca and Simpsonville, SC areas.