This post came to mind because a while ago I made the mistake of not looking after myself. In particular my left thumb! Now I know that may sound a little trivial, but it’s a reality a lot of therapists face as we work with our hands all the time and life becomes difficult if you can’t use them.

If you are trained as a therapist, such as a physio, osteo, chiro, massage therapist etc, it is likely that you had it drummed into you that when treating your first priority is the position you are in, and the way you use your own body, so that you can avoid injury and treat long term without wearing yourself out. Backs and thumbs are the two most common areas therapists have trouble with.

I have always tried to look after my thumbs when treating with traditional manual therapy, but I made the mistake of forgetting about them when doing some more of the functional manual therapy: assisted dynamic stretch (ADS). I had experienced pain for a few weeks and was struggling to work out exactly what was causing it. Then one day I was working on a few shoulders and I realised I hadn’t been taking as much care of my hands, and my thumb was really painful while working on the scapular. There are plenty of ways of working, particularly when you are doing more functional manual therapy, so it is possible to adapt to reduce the pressure on the thumbs.

I’m hoping my experience will save pain in the thumbs for a few of you, so here is what I suggest. When you are performing ADS:

* Think about your whole body position so you can use your body weight rather than excessive force on your hands
* Think about the position of your hands and where the force you are applying is going
* Try to adapt your position so that the force is going through larger or multiple joints, so that you are not excessively stressing one small joint
* If it’s stressing a joint, and you can’t find a way to avoid it, stop. Change to an exercise solution or an alternative manual therapy solution.

As most of you who have done the Diploma in Functional Performance or Diploma in Functional Therapy are using hands-on solutions regularly I feel it is really important you start to think about these things so you don’t end in a painful position as I did! The thumb pain was resolved with a little treatment, but I have learnt to change my technique/treatment habits to protect myself in the future.

Neil Poulton