Written by Melissa Miller
After injury or surgery, nerves in the skin and surrounding the injured area can become overly sensitive. This can cause pain or an unpleasant sensation by stimuli that would not typically cause discomfort. For example, a light touch from a shirt or a certain material can feel like needles to hypersensitive skin. In the hand therapy setting, patients present with injuries to the upper extremity, causing hypersensitivity to crucial areas, such as parts of their hands, fingers, and forearms. When a patient is experiencing hypersensitivity in their upper extremity, it severely limits their ability to complete functional tasks such as dressing, cooking, and manipulating objects.
Desensitization (desensitization techniques for hypersensitivity) is a method in which you are constantly applying stimuli to the affected area of skin, providing the brain with extensive sensory input.  Over time the brain acclimates to that sensation, decreasing the uncomfortable, painful sensation that was perceived.  There are different methods in how you can desensitize the skin. One common method is using a sensory desensitization occupational therapy kit. Sensory kits can provide different stimuli depending on what type of stimuli the individual is sensitive to. A sensory kit can have different fabrics and textures; it can provide deep or lighter pressure, vibration, and even heat and cold. By providing a patient with a sensory kit, it enables them to desensitize the skin. Hence, they can do the activities and tasks they need to do throughout the day without pain or unpleasant sensation on the skin.
Our Sensory Kit!
We have provided sensory kits to many of our patients who have experienced hypersensitivity after an injury. Our sensory kit typically includes five materials that provide graded tactile stimuli. Our sensory kits are built from strapping and material that are used in the clinic. Here is our sensory kit!
Sensory Kit Material: graded from least intense tactile input (1), to greatest intensity of tactile input (5).
1. Soft/fuzzy Material- light and soft touch to begin desensitization
2. Soft strap – thicker then first material providing greater sensory input, but still soft
3. Velcro Strap – fuzzy and more wiry fabric for greater sensory input
4. Ace bandage – rougher fabric providing more intense sensory input
5. Foam Material – rough material for greatest intensity of sensory input
There are many methods to put together a sensory kit. What does your sensory kit look like?
 rsds (2020). Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) treatment: Desensitization. Retrieved from https://rsds.org/complex-regional-pain-syndrome-crps-treatment-desensitization/
More To Read
By: Maddie Mott Rostami, R. H., Arefi, A., & Tabatabaei, S. (2013). Effect of mirror therapy on hand function in patients with hand orthopaedic injuries: a randomized controlled trial. Disability and Rehabilitation, 35(19). 1647-1651. DOI: 10.3109/09638288.2012.751132 The Skinny: How does mirror therapy work? Mirror therapy (MT) is performed by placing the patient’s injured extremity into…Read More
Hand therapy can and should be very occupation-based. Every week, we hear comments from patients that back that statement up: “I need to get back to work” “I just want to golf again” “I can’t even open a water bottle” “My spouse has to do all of the cooking” Although standard exercises are helpful, it’s…Read More
Hamzeh, H., Mohammad, M., Alghwiri, A., & Hawamdeh, Z. (2021). The long-term effect of neurodynamics vs. exercise therapy on pain and function in people with carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized parallel-group clinical trial. Journal of Hand Therapy, 34, 521-530. The Skinny: Carpal tunnel is the most common peripheral nerve compression problem. There is now some…Read More
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