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Glossary

This glossary provides a list of the most commonly used terms in hand therapy.

Arthritis
A common condition affecting joints that causes pain and inflammation. It can affect people of any age including children.
Arthroscopy
A minimally invasive surgical procedure to look inside a joint in order to examine the joint surface, cartilage and main ligaments. Sometimes treatment can be given during the procedure.
BAHT
British Association of Hand Therapy
Brachial Plexus
A network of nerves extending from the spinal cord in the neck which branches and various levels. These nerves control sensation and movement in the arm and hand.  
BSSH
The British Society for Surgery of the Hand
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the median nerve at the wrist causing pain, numbness and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger.
Carpus
The group of 8 small bones which form the wrist joint. Comprising of Trapezium, Trapezoid, Capitate, Hamate, Scaphoid, Lunate, Triquetrium, Pisiform.
CMC Joint
Carpometacarpal joint is the space where a metacarpal bone joins the carpal bone. The 1st CMC joint is at the base of the thumb.
CSP
Chartered Society of Physiotherapists
Cubital Tunnel
Compression or irritation of the ulna nerve as it passes around the elbow. Symptoms include aching around the elbow, pain numbness and tingling on the little finger side of the hand, little finger and half of the ring finger.
De Quervain’s
A painful condition affecting the tendons that run along the side of the thumb as they pass through a tunnel close to the wrist.
DIP Joint: distal interphalangeal joint
The joint space between the bone at the top of the digit and the middle bone of the digit.
Dorsal/Dorsum
Describes the area on the back of the hand.
Dupuytren’s Disease
A condition which causes thickening and shortening of the tissue beneath the skin and then pulls one or more of the fingers (or thumb) towards the palm.
Dynamometer
A device used to measure grip strength or force through the hand.
Finklestein’s Test
A test used to help diagnose De Quervain’s syndrome. The affected tendons are placed under tension which increases symptoms and may elicit a painful response.
Fracture
A break in the bone
Ganglion cyst
Appear as a lump under the skin which is filled with a thick jelly like fluid. They are a common condition and appear around the wrist and occasionally fingers.
Goniometer
A tool used to measure angles and range of motion in a joint.
Hypothenar Eminence
Muscular area of the palm below the little finger
Ligament
Short band of strong tissue connecting and supporting two bones at a joint
MCP Joint: metacarpophalangeal joint
The joint space between the top of the metacarpal bone and the base of the finger bone.
Metacarpal
The long bones which form the hand
MRI
Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images of inside the body.
Nerve
A bundle of fibres which send messages from the brain and spinal cord to body parts. Responsible for sensation and movement.
Occupational Therapist
Help people to recover and maintain their independence during illness or ill health. Hand therapists can be either occupational therapists or physiotherapists.
Oedema
A build up of fluid in a body area which is often present following injury, surgery or inflammation. Commonly known as swelling.
Osteoarthritis
A common degenerative condition affecting the joint cartilage and bone. Symptoms may include inflammation, pain, oedema, reduced movement and stiffness of the joints
Phalanx / Phalanges
The bones that make up the fingers and thumb.
Phalen’s Test
Provocative test to help diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. The wrists are held in a bent forwards position which compresses the median nerve within the carpal tunnel and increases symptoms.
Physiotherapist
Help people to recover movement and functional ability following illness or ill health. Hand Therapists can be either physiotherapists or occupational therapists.
PIP Joint
Proximal interphalangeal joint: the joint space between the bottom and middle finger bones.
Radius
The long bone on the thumb side of the forearm
Range of Movement / Motion
Degree of movement at a joint. Measured with a goniometer.
RCOT
Royal College of Occupational Therapists
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Autoimmune disorder causing inflammation around specific joints. Symptoms include pain, swelling and joint damage.
Sensation
The ability to detect stimulus such as touch and temperature
Splint
A device used for to support, protect, mobilise or immobilise the hand or arm. May be custom-made or off the shelf. Commonly made from plastic, wood, Lycra and neoprene materials.
Tendon
A strong fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bone and transmits force to produce movement of a body part. In the hand these are commonly referred to as flexor or extensor tendons according to their action.
Thenar Eminence
Muscular area of the palm at the base of the thumb.
Tinel's Sign
Lightly tapping the pathway of a nerve to produce a tingling sensation in areas of irritability.
Trigger Digit
Condition affecting the tendons that bend the fingers/thumb. A thickening causes the tendon to become ‘stuck’ as it passes through a tunnel and gives a locking or catching sensation which is often painful.
Ulna
The long bone on the little finger side of the forearm
Ultrasound
High frequency sound waves are passed into body tissue through a transmission medium, often water based gel or water. May be used to produce an image as a diagnostic procedure or as a therapeutic tool in therapy.
Volar
Describes the palm side of the hand
Volar Plate
A thick ligament joining and stabilising the bones in the fingers/thumb. Frequently injured if the fingers/thumb are forced backwards.
X-ray
Electromagnetic energy waves or radiation used to produce an image. Most commonly used to look at bones and detect fractures.
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