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How Do I Choose the Best Hand Orthosis?

Choosing the best hand orthosis depends upon what condition the device is being used for. A hand orthosis, or hand brace, is used to immobilize or rest the hand, limiting movement and sometimes, alleviating pain. When a hand or wrist sprain occurs, a hand orthosis is generally recommended to discourage movement and prevent further injury. Someone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome may find relief when wearing a hand orthosis, which discourages painful movement of the hand and wrist. Carpel tunnel syndrome can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand or wrist, and is usually caused by repetitive movements of the fingers and hands.

When a hand injury occurs, a hand orthosis should not be considered until the nature of the injury has been determined. In certain cases, a hand orthosis is not the recommended treatment of choice, and may even hinder healing. Conditions of the hand and wrist that are accompanied by pain, swelling, bruising, or redness need to be evaluated by a health care provider to determine the cause and recommended treatment.

Some hand braces are made from soft materials, while others are made from a combination of soft and hard materials. In addition, a hand orthosis might be designed to provide support to the entire hand, wrist, and thumb. Hand splints can be purchased at drug stores and medical supply retailers without a prescription, but patients should consult with the health care provider who can recommend the most appropriate size and type.

When purchasing a hand brace, the correct size must be chosen, or the condition may worsen. If the orthosis is too small, circulation may be compromised and impede blood flow. This could delay healing and even cause permanent nerve damage. When the orthosis is too big, it may not provide enough support and immobilization. Hand braces purchased at drug stores or other retail outlets may not be covered through medical insurance, however, when the orthosis is obtained through a doctor's office or physical therapy facility, the cost may be covered.

When a hand injury does not improve as a result of wearing a hand brace, further treatment may be necessary. Treatments for hand injuries may include taking anti-inflammatory medications, icing the hand, and physical or occupational therapy sessions. If a broken bone is suspected, the health care provider will likely recommend an x-ray. If ligament or tendon damage is suspected, an MRI may be recommended because soft tissue does not show up well on traditional x-rays.

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