Hands are a reflection of who we are as people and how we connect to the world around us. They enable us to show love, care for loved ones, be independent and be who we are. What hands look like and what they do are the external reflection of our internal selves.
Our hands work in exquisite ways to grip, lift, push, pull, pinch and grasp. They are so involved in all of our daily activities that we completely take them for granted.
In order to understand how much we rely on our hands all we have to do is try not to use one hand, or even one finger, for a day.
This is why the most common thing my clients say to me is: 'I didn't realise how much I use my hands until my injury!'.
Perhaps even more overlooked, but just as vital, is the role our hands play in maintaining our emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Our hands are one of the few body parts in western cultures that are not frequently covered by clothing. Our hands are so deeply linked to our body image and self confidence that even relatively minor imperfections can have a devastating impact on our self esteem.
Further evidence of the hands role in self image is in the variety of decoration applied. Hands are the most frequently adorned area of the body and the symbolism placed has very important cultural significance.
A wedding ring is customarily placed on the fourth finger of the left hand. It is a symbol of the commitment made to the sanctity of marriage. This finger was believed to have a vein called the 'heart' vein. Wearing a ring on this finger is suggested to connect the giver of the ring to the wearers heart.
A super bowl ring is offered to an elite few who advance to the very top of the NFL championship. These rings are highly coveted and their value far surpasses the dollar cost of the ring - which is significant as the 2015 rings reportedly cost more than $36000 per ring!
Fingernails of a certain length and colour have long been associated with beauty. I have a few hand therapist friends who find going to get their nails done very therapeutic and an absolute must for making them feel beautiful.
On the flip side there are many reports throughout history where prisoners of war were released following amputation of a thumb or a finger. The victims would forever be marked with their actions and punishment. These stories date back to Julius Caesar.
Severe hand injuries that result in extensive scarring, or amputation can be very detrimental to our sense of self. It is as common a side effect of the injury as scarring. This is an area that requires sensitivity and understanding from the health professional.
I have a unique perspective to offer my clients with a hand injury as I have a finger amputation myself. I have experienced the incredible insensitivity of some people when they notice my stump, such as 'you won’t be able to get married as you don't have a ring finger'.
I find this statement fairly amusing as marriage means so much more then if you wear a ring! It does however illustrate my point of how deeply our hands are linked to our culture.
There are far more people who simply don't notice it, or are just curious as to the cause. I have found that I have been self conscious at times about my stump, but overall it does not worry me. It is a part of who I am and my self image has changed to adopt the fact that I don't have 10 fingers.
I would love to see people with hand injuries embrace their uniqueness, and put their 'battle wounds' out for the world to see with pride. We have accomplished something far greater in our lives and the physical evidence on our hands is truly a testament to our strength and endurance.