Hands On

The power of hands, from the therapists’ view point

Clay by Amanda Tose – Specialist Rheumatology Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapy helps people to engage as independently as possible with their everyday activities. This varies greatly from getting washed and dressed, making and eating a meal, using Instagram, walking their dog, reading a book, driving a car and mowing the lawn; to name but a few. Even sleep is classed as an occupation! What if your hands were affected by illness such as arthritis or an accident how would you engage in your everyday activities? This is where Occupational Therapy comes in! And this is why I love my job so much. I get to help people do what they need to do and what matters to them in their life, this is so rewarding. Small changes can create a big impact to someone’s life.  I love this quote by an Occupational Therapist called Mary Reilly in 1961

 ‘Man, through the use of his hands, as they energised by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health’.

Mary Reilly

I think it emphasises the importance of our hands not only as part of our physical health but as part of our mental health too. Have you ever been so engrossed in what you were doing you lost the sense of time? In occupational therapy we call this flow state. Flow state can improve mental well-being; a bit of an escape from the world and something just for you. Many of our activities of daily living require use of our hands and if we were not able to use our hands this can start to have a negative impact of our mental health. It’s within this that I feel a stronger passion to help someone with poor hand function because I know it will not only help them physically but mentally too.

My sense of flow state is being creative. Recently I have made this hand, I thought I would show it with a thumbs up, to give it a positive feel. Creating this was my way of finding a bit of occupational balance in these difficult times to support my mental health and I have really enjoyed it. 

Clay Hand by Amanda Tose

Emma Lee – AHP Team Manager

As a physio, I am passionate about supporting independence and function. I was drawn to doing a project specifically on hands as a celebration of the skills and dexterity which are developed when one spends time doing craft activities. A niche specialism, hand therapy is the management and rehabilitation of injuries and conditions affecting the hands, wrists and upper limb. This includes the forearm, elbow and upper arm. Both physiotherapists and occupational therapists can become hand therapists, using techniques such as splinting and joint mobilisation to promote rehabilitation. They work in a range of healthcare settings, including NHS trusts and private hospitals, as part of multidisciplinary teams.

I first learnt about Lucy Burscough on twitter seeing other anatomical embroidery pieces as part of the Dab  Hands project. I was instantly intrigued and amazed by both Lucy’s project and the beautiful illustrations by Mr Donald Sammut. Donald uses drawing in his medical practice to gain a greater understanding of his patients’ specific difficulties and as a teaching aid for anatomy and surgical techniques. His beautiful drawings can be seen at www.donaldsammut.com/portfolio.

A two year public-facing residency at Manchester University’s fabulous Manchester Museum, ‘Dab Hands’ will explore hands, art practice & dexterity. Lucy is best known for her ‘portraiture for health’ projects. ‘Dab Hands’ will move on from the face, to another identity-rich area of the body, the hands. Lucy and her collaborators will explore our profound relationship with our hands via a range of creative and thought-provoking approaches. The piece will be exhibited as part of the Dab Hands exhibition at Manchester Museum as it reopens after an extensive refurbishment in 2022.  Dab Hands — Lucy Burscough (lucysart.co.uk)

Emma Lee – Dab Hands embroidery

Heather Harrison Rheumatology Advanced Clinical Specialist

As a rheumatology physiotherapist people’s hands and how people can improve their hand strength and function is one of the most important aspects of my role. Hands are often the first area of the body to be affected in rheumatology conditions. In rheumatoid arthritis, the symmetrical involvement of the hands is characteristic of the disease. People often feel pain, swelling, stiffness, and have a potential deformity. In the first 6 months of having rheumatoid arthritis people will lose 40% of their grip strength. Helping people improve their hand function through exercise is essential to allow them to maintain independence and do activities they enjoy, whether it is gardening, sewing or simply being able to make a meal.

When I received my Dab Hands print I was pleased to have a picture of a hand gripping. This is an exercise I give to a lot of my patients. Gripping is not only important in daily activities but grip strength has been shown to have an association with mortality.  Our hand function is so important in of our physical and mental health and strength can even influence our life span. I am looking forward to seeing the exhibition next year and I’m honoured to have been part of it.

Heather Harrison – Dab Hands embroidery

Click on the images below to see more handiwork from the physiotherapy team.

One thought on “Hands On

  1. The Arts Team would like to apologise for omitting to mention our wonderful occupational therapists when promoting this post via email.


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