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Using Home-Based Paraffin Wax Units for Wrist Pain and Stiffness

I recently had success treating clients with a paraffin wax unit designed for home use.  I’d like to share the case study with you. As a community occupational therapist there are often restrictions in providing home-based therapy to clients due to the nature of the treating environment. In hospital, paraffin wax treatments are often used, but the medical-grade equipment is large, cumbersome and not conducive to home use. This means that clients receiving home-based OT treatments due to mobility restrictions or other limitations may lose out on potential therapeutic modalities.

Why Paraffin? Since paraffin is heavy in molecular weight, it increases the blood supply to the area being treated and traps moisture from underlying layers of the skin. Paraffin therapy is commonly used to reduce pain and stiffness around joints by removing excess fluid from surrounding tissue, providing heat and added lubrication to the skin.

The Solution I recently purchased a portable paraffin wax unit from a home health store at the cost of $60.00 for use with a client experiencing dominant-hand wrist pain and stiffness as a result of a wrist fracture. The fracture occurred approximately one year prior and she had attempted massage treatment on the affected area with no symptom relief. Using the paraffin unit involved some set-up including pre-heating the wax for approximately two hours prior to use. The client was asked to plug in the paraffin wax unit prior to me arriving at her home to reduce therapy time spent preparing the wax. To complete treatment, the client’s affected hand was placed into the wax 10 times quickly after which time her hand was placed in a plastic sleeve (60 were provided in the kit). After 15 minutes, the wax was removed and her hand was washed. Several towels were used to reduce wax spillage during treatment. This treatment was continued over subsequent OT treatment sessions with the client reporting a reduction in overall wrist pain and stiffness. Additionally she noted that the treatment was relaxing and assisted towards boosting her mood. As therapy progressed both the Personal Support Worker and the client herself were taught how to use the unit independent of OT treatment sessions, thus increasing her exposure to the treatment without using extra OT therapy time.

Summary    At a low cost the use of paraffin wax treatment can be brought into a client’s home by a community-based occupational therapist. The treatment modality is cheap, effective and acted towards increasing mood as well as pain and stiffness symptoms. If appropriate, the client can be taught how to use the device outside of therapy sessions thus increasing the benefits of treatment.

Submitted by Melissa Tobros, MSc. OT, OT Reg. (Ont.), CCLCP