Joints can become tighten and become stiff for a variety of reasons including:
injury requiring casting or bracing
pain which limits the joint from moving through it's full motion
changes in muscle tone due to illness or neurological insult
loss of flexibility and tissue elasticity through the aging process
arthritic joint changes.
If there is any stiffness in the hand or upper extremity, regaining motion is the primary initial goal of any therapy program. Once range of motion is achieved, functional use of the hand and strengthening can progress.
Occupational and Physical Therapists use a variety of techniques to regain motion. Such techniques may include:
use of orthotics (splints) for positioning
use of braces, elastic slings and dynamic orthotics (splints) to provide a long, low-level stretch to help remodel tight tissues (think of braces or a retainer).