Fawwaz shares all things hand therapy!

19 May 2023

We had a chat with our new Hand Therapist, Fawwaz Ismail, who is based in our Henderson and East Tamaki clinics in Auckland. He has been a hand therapist for years and finds it super rewarding to help patients get back to the things they love because having an injury somewhere from the elbow down to the fingertips can be disruptive to a patient’s everyday life. Fawwaz shared some insight into how they got into Hand Therapy and a bit more about this specialist area that sits under the physiotherapist umbrella.

What is hand therapy?
Hand therapy includes assessing and treating injuries from the elbow right down to the fingertips. Hand therapy includes services such as providing splints or other supports, scar management, exercises for strengthening muscles and improving movement, and managing pain. 

Where does Habit Health offer hand therapy?
Hand Rehab, a well-known provider of hand therapy, joined Habit Health, which has helped us expand our services. We now offer hand therapy in Wellington, Palmerston North and Dunedin, on top of our existing clinics in Auckland and Christchurch. 

How did you get into Hand Therapy?
I used to be a market researcher but had decided I needed a change. I was on YouTube one day and happened to come across a video where a hand therapist was talking about what they do for a job and how much he enjoyed it. I was intrigued by what he had to say and, as they say, the rest is history. I really enjoy my job, being able to help people to get their hands working again and back to good use. 

Tell us more about the specific services you offer as a hand therapist?
Hand therapy covers many areas. We focus on the area from the elbow down to the fingertips and help with things like sprains and fractures to more serious tendon and nerve injuries. 

We’re also trained in scar management following a surgery or injury, which I really enjoy. It’s rewarding to be able to treat a person’s scar so that it’s less noticeable and less restrictive in movement. To do this, we use different techniques like massaging the scar, applying pressure garments, and using specialised taping techniques.

Are hand therapists different from physiotherapists? 
Rather than focusing on the whole body, we’re specifically trained to look at the hand and arm. A hand therapist’s specialised skills include managing movement and strength, joint stability, swelling, pain and sensation, wounds and scars, and fitting customised supports and splints. 

What are you most passionate about in your job?
For most of the population, our hands are essential to our daily lives. In fact, they’re often so essential that it’s easy to take them for granted. People don’t often realise that until they have to come and see us. The best part is restoring function to this important part of the body and getting people back to feeling themselves again. 

What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Sport-wise, I’m into football and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When I’m feeling less active, you’ll find me watching documentaries and eating copious amounts of chocolate! 

When do you think someone should see a hand therapist about their injury?
If a person has injured themselves, they should come and see us as soon as possible because chronic injuries take much longer to come right, even with treatment. 

What can someone expect when seeing a hand therapist?
We start by thoroughly evaluating and assessing the person’s condition, which involves some motion, strength, sensation and function testing. We also review their medical history. Based on this, we will put together a treatment plan and give them some exercises for the affected hand, wrist or forearm. We might use joint and soft tissue mobilisation and massage techniques to reduce pain and promote healing. 

Depending on the injury, we sometimes use techniques like heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, paraffin wax baths or laser therapy. One of our big aims is to help our patients get the functional skills back that they need for daily activities. So, in our sessions, we often practice things like grasping objects, writing, using tools, or manipulating small objects. 

As part of our treatment, we educate patients on what they can do at home to help and always monitor their progress closely.

Is hand therapy covered under ACC? 
Yes, hand therapy is recognised and covered under ACC, just ask our team if your injury will be covered. There’s no need for a referral from a GP. 

Where can I see a Habit Health hand therapist? 
We have hand therapists in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and we’re all here to help!

How to book? 

Feel free to make an appointment with us here using our new easy booking system - https://habit.health/book-now 

If you are a Specialist or GP and want to make a referral, you can do this via Healthlink, ERMs or get in touch at referrals@habit.health