If you are not tolerating the feel of your sleeve touching your arm, the pressure of water in the shower or even the thought of using your hand after an arm injury, then you have developed some hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity or “allodynia” is when you feel discomfort in response to stimulation that isn’t normally noxious.
Why does this happen?
This is your nervous system protecting your injured hand. Or, rather, overprotecting it. The nervous system tends to err on the side of protection, even after healing has taken place.
- avoidance of certain textures and temperatures
- hesitancy to use your hand
- increased pain if you force your hand to push through it. “No pain, no gain” is not the best method to resolve hypersensitivity.
If allowed to go unchecked, it can lead to:
- anticipation of pain before even starting an activity
- stiffness of the hand and arm due to tensing muscles frequently to guard against motion/pain
- sleep disruption
- As hypersensitivity progresses it often takes less stimuli to ramp up pain symptoms.
What can I expect from therapy?
You may have come to expect that therapy will push you through painful exercises to regain strength and motion. Armworks Hand Therapists will instead focus on alleviating discomfort and working at your tolerance level. You will gradually return to your activities as your arm feels less sensitive.
How is it treated?
Hypersensitivity typically responds well to desensitization training. The goal of desensitization is to calm the overprotective nervous system by gradually introducing the sensitive nerves to different textures and sensations. We will begin at a level that is comfortable and relaxing and allow rest from stimulation when your hand needs it. Hand therapy will sneak in “under the radar” of the overprotective nervous system.
Hand therapists at Armworks use a combination of
- texture brushing
- soft tissue techniques
- mirror box therapy
Armworks Hand Therapists are trained in Graded Motor Imagery: a method of step by step exposure to sensations while reducing the perception of threat to the hand. It works by changing the expectation of having pain from use of the arm. We will provide education on how your nervous system processes stimuli and how to calm it down. Once you understand how the nervous system works, you can reset it to it’s normal processing level.
Contact one of our 5 Armworks Hand Therapy clinic locations to be scheduled for an evaluation or Request an Appointment Online to assist you in your healing journey.