Certified Hand Therapist Offers Helping Hand to Patients

Certified hand therapist Rachel Brady demonstrates a stretch for a patient who is recovering from a wrist injury.
Certified hand therapist Rachel Brady demonstrates a stretch for a patient who is recovering from a wrist injury.

Visually, the human hand is a small part of the body, but it contains 27 bones, 34 muscles and more than 100 ligaments. They all work together to make this essential body part function well every waking moment.

When something goes wrong – an injury or other medical condition – it can rob a person of quality of life and even take away a means of earning income. Rachel Brady, occupational therapist and certified hand therapist (CHT) at Covenant Therapy Center – Downtown at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, is an expert in giving the hands a hand.

An Exclusive Specialty

Brady is certified in upper extremity rehabilitation and specializes in working with the arm, from shoulder to fingers. She works with individuals with “thoracic outlet syndrome [disorders that occur as a result of compression or irritation of nerves or blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest], cubital conditions [affecting the inner part of the elbow], carpal tunnel, fractures, amputations, various things dealing with upper extremity trauma, and traumatic injuries, as well as cumulative overuse-type injuries,” she says.

There are only about 6,000 therapists in the U.S. with upper-extremity rehabilitation certifications, according to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission. Brady can fabricate custom-made orthotics to hold the hand in position for protection or to prevent deformities from developing. “I also make exercise splints to help get stiff joints moving,” she says.

Occupational therapists like Brady focus on activity and how an injury or condition may prevent the patient from performing daily tasks that impact quality of life, “like typing or caring for grandchildren,” Brady says.

Since we rely so heavily on our hands daily, getting them in good working order is essential. On this particular day, Brady is helping a first-time patient get past the restrictions of a newly healed wrist fracture.

“She also has some arthritis and maybe some carpal tunnel going on,” Brady says. “Those are three different things happening at once.”

Physicians often refer patients for therapy, but depending on insurance, a physician referral may not be required for therapy services. Sometimes she’s the first one a patient sees about pain or limitations. Brady uses her expertise like putting pieces of a puzzle together to formulate the correct diagnosis and personalize therapy.

Complete Care

Helping patients to compensate and reorganize their environments is often as important as the targeted stretches and exercise. “We use our hands for everything, so a big part of my education as an occupational therapist is to help patients work around issues they are having because they still need to use their hands in everyday activity.”

During therapy sessions, Brady watches for stiffness, pain, swelling and weakness. She instructs patients to pay attention to their pain, working through dull aches and soreness but stopping if pain becomes sharp. Splints and orthotics are added as needed.

Brady has a background in art and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in drawing. As an artist, she has a special appreciation for the importance of strong shoulders and arms, flexible elbows, and hands that work as they should. It was her mother who suggested she consider taking her knowledge and skills to the field of occupational therapy. “My mom was a teacher and saw occupational therapists working in the school system with kids doing art projects all day,” Brady says. Taking her mom’s suggestion and pursuing certification in hand therapy, Brady has found a calling that is a perfect fit for her knowledge, skills and passion.

“I make splints, so it has the art piece. Then there’s creative problem-solving, because not everything works for every person. And then helping people is always rewarding.”

Keeping her art skills handy, Brady now applies them to patients who need a helping hand, bringing comfort, healing and restoring quality of life.

To self-refer to Covenant Therapy-Downtown, please call 865-331-1300 or visit CovenantHealth.com/Covenant-Therapy-Center-Downtown.

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