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Getting to grips with independence

How Active Hands is transforming rehabilitation for people with reduced hand function.



Every person has the right to lead an active, fulfilling, independent life; but the complex array of disabilities that affect one’s grip can severely challenge this right.

Active Hands founder Rob Smith certainly discovered this to be the case, after a cliff fall left him partially paralysed in all four limbs.

Frustrated at his inability to grip the various gym apparatus and weights, he set about creating a glove that could fasten his hands to whatever was needed; and so the General Purpose Gripping Aid was born! Fast forward to present day and The Active Hands Company now carefully designs and stocks a wide range of high-quality gripping aids that cater to anyone with reduced hand function and are perfect for use in rehabilitation, sporting and gym activities, home and hobbies, and so much more.

Case Study 1: Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy

NeuAbility, Denver (previously SCI Recovery Program) makes full use of the gripping aids that Active Hands has created in its comprehensive rehabilitation programme.

Its clients have a wide range of paralysis related conditions such as spinal injuries, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, amputation, stroke, cerebral palsy, brain injuries and auto-immune diseases.

These disabilities often affect hand function, and physiotherapy and rehabilitation would be impossible without some way of fixing their clients hands to the apparatus.

This is exactly why NeuAbility considers it essential to include multiple pairs of Active Hands gripping aids in its facility; so its clients can slip the aids on quickly and easily, giving them a firm, comfortable and reliable grip that enables them to achieve a full, comprehensive workout. The thoughtful design allows the clients to put on the gripping aids independently, allowing them to be used at home too.

“Active Hands gripping aids allow our clients to access gym equipment fully and maximise the benefits of our fitness program.”

George Whitten, Clinical Director SCI Recovery Program

Whether they are using apparatus such as cable/pulley machines, battle ropes, handbikes, walkers or just basic free weights – all are used in conjunction with Active Hands gripping aids, and the clients absolutely love them!

Without these it would be infinitely more challenging for them to progress in their rehabilitation, restricting the opportunity to fully exercise the muscles in their arms, shoulders and upper torso.

But rehabilitation and the battle for independence don’t just end once you go home, with many people finding that the struggle to do simple day to day tasks can be the biggest frustration of them all. Brenda Besos was one of these people.

Case Study 2: Home and Hobbies

Brenda, a quadriplegic with limited arm function and zero grip, had struggled for many years with basic, everyday tasks that most people take for granted.

Things such as holding a pen, using cooking utensils/cutlery, holding toothbrushes, and applying make-up and other beauty essentials were all a constant struggle for Brenda due to her lack of hand function.

Over the years she had experimented with a variety of splints, cuffs and gloves, all of which she had found very limiting and unable to give her a firm enough grip or the ability to hold the items at the optimal angle required for use. However, once she discovered Active Hands’ Small Item Gripping Aid all that changed.

The unique design, whereby items are secured via clamps to a Velcro pad that is then attached to a gloved aid, means that you can choose to hold them at whatever angle you wish.

Not only that, but the pads are interchangeable; meaning that with extra Palm Pads you can keep your items permanently clamped in, allowing you to quickly and easily switch between them.

Brenda did exactly this and in no time she was able to write, brush her teeth, cook and hold cutlery, as well as apply eyeliner, mascara and lipstick – all with a newfound confidence and independence thanks to the firm, versatile grip that the Small Item Gripping Aid gave her.

On top of all this, Brenda was thrilled to find that she was now able to rediscover some of her favourite hobbies, one of which was painting. Hobbies such as this can be great ways of relaxing and expressing yourself, so finding that you are suddenly once again able to take part in these activities can be a huge confidence booster.

This was certainly the case with Brenda, and by having extra Palm Pads for different brushes it means that she is able to switch between them and create her art without requiring assistance!

“The possibility of the things I can do has definitely expanded. I no longer have to worry about objects slipping out of my grasp in the middle of activities. Pretty much anything can be placed in the palm piece and will trustingly stay on.”
Brenda Besos

Active Hands products are now stocked in hospitals, rehabilitation units and homes across the world; being used by both professionals and individuals alike as the universal solution when it comes to gripping issues.

By solving these issues, they are opening doors that once seemed permanently closed; giving people of differing disabilities back their right to independence which they are able to take with them through rehabilitation and out into the world!

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Video: everyday vs specialist tech

Assistive technology Expert Andy Fell joins Irwin Mitchell law firm for an in-depth exploration of the very latest independence-boosting devices and platforms.



Technology plays a day to day role in our lives and mobile phones, tablets, Alexa and Siri are common place.

Imagine the impact on your life if you were no longer able to interact with a touch screen or keyboard or give voice commands….

In this virtual event, Assistive Technology expert Andy Fell gives practical demonstrations of how everyday technology and specialist technology can be used to help give independence to those who need it most and why specialist technology may be needed.

During the event hosted by Lauren Haas, personal injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell LLP, Andy goes into detail about what apps and gadgets are on the market, how everyday technology can be optimised such as the Amazon Alexa, and answered a number of questions ranging from touch screen sensitivity to smart watch reminders.

Case managers, ancillary medical professionals, as well as interested members in healthcare, social care, parents and clients may find this recording useful, as well as anyone caring for, working or living with people such as dementia sufferers or sufferers of other conditions which restrict their mobility.

Andy Fell is an independent disability and assistive technology (AT) consultant with almost twenty years’ experience working with all disabilities and age groups.

He is a qualified Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually Impaired and, since qualification, has lectured on the use of assistive technology and role of AT in the life of disabled people.

He has worked with a wide range of charitable organisations including British Dyslexia Association, was head of assistive technology for Guide Dogs for the Blind and National Disability Advisor for the Royal Yacht Association.

He has also worked for blue chip companies, the emergency services and various government departments including Department for Work and Pensions.

Andy is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, chairman and founding trustee of the Wetwheels Foundation and sat on the British Dyslexia Association – Workplace Assessors Professional Review Panel.

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The relationship between music and running

By Daniel Thomas, joint managing director of Chroma Therapies.



By Daniel Thomas, joint managing director of Chroma Therapies

With its ability to produce new neural pathways, Neurologic Music Therapy is able to encourage movement, co-ordination, improve speech and language, and improve the ability to read/feel emotions, reactions and more, in people living with catastrophic injuries.

This is because music automatically connects to the brain. And this automaticity is what makes music so powerful.

Music also has to ability to push your training capabilities farther and faster especially in running.

This is why a running playlist is the ideal accompaniment to any runner.

Each songs tempo stimulates the brain, evoking a running response of either a faster pace or a steady rhythm depending on what you want to achieve.

For a faster pace, a good running playlist should contain songs with 150-180bpm.

Unfortunately, with not many songs out there using that speed (unless you enjoy rock, metal or speed garage for running) than the other option is to choose songs with 75-90bpm, as this tempo is perfect for a steady rhythm and maximising efficiency.

Do you recall an earlier blog where we discussed cadence and stride length using NMT for preventing falls in the elderly?

We suggested music with a high bpm count promotes movement, good cadence and walking speed, so songs like Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots are Made for Walkin’, which has 85 bpm, is ideal.

BPM strongly correlates to step cadence.

Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) is an important aspect of NMT.

Predictable rhythmic structure allows the sensori-motor system to move in sync with the beat.

This is, in essence, why music is important to runners, as it has the ability to communicate with the brain in order to help maintain a steady pace or increase speed depending on the bpm.

When it comes to mental wellbeing, we will always discuss music’s ability to improve mental wellbeing, and its effect can also be attributed to runners.

Music’s ability to improve stride, cadence and style, to produce better and better runs, and enable runners to achieve personal goals also have a positive effect upon mental wellbeing.

A sense of accomplishment. And with the right playlist, runners can end each run on a high.

We also like to discuss how NMT is more effective when it is personalised to that individual.

The same can be said in the case of a runner. A playlist that includes, not only songs with the ideal tempo for them, but also have some personal meaning, have the greatest positive effect upon runners.

The more enjoyable the run, the less fatigue is experienced. This may be due to the fact that music is able to interfere with the parts of the brain that communicate fatigue, essentially causing a distraction, so less fatigue is experienced.

For runners, the relationship between music and running can be seen to be just as effective and important as the relationship between music and recovering from a brain injury.

Its ability to improve running capability, speed, motivation, and promote mental wellbeing is what makes the difference between a run just being a run and reaching ‘Flow State’ – the mental state where the runner is in the moment of running – no distractions, and the run becomes…euphoric.

Read more: Running in the name of mental health

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Concussion could lead to depression, ADHD, dementia and Parkinson’s – study



A new study has revealed a link between concussion and the risk of being diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood and anxiety disorders, dementia and Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Despite ‘clinical recovery’ from concussion typically lasting one week, a team of researchers from the University of Manitoba suspected there may be longer term effects. They used 25 years of population-based health data between 1990 and 2015, involving almost 50,000 cases of concussion from people living in Manitoba, Canada.

They found that concussion was associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood and anxiety disorders (MADs), dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

After analysing the population data, they found that concussion was linked to an increased risk of diagnosis of ADHD, dementia and Parkinson’s.

Women who had a concussion were at greater risk of developing ADHD and MADs, but there were no differences between men and women for the risk of developing dementia or Parkinson’s.

Multiple concussions didn’t affect the risk of later being diagnosed with ADHD, but a second concussion increased the risk of dementia, while exposure to more than three concussions increased the risk of being diagnosed with MADs.

While previous studies have found links between concussion and ADHD, dementia, Parkinson’s and MADs, most have relied on patients self-reporting their symptoms, the researchers write.

However, this study can only show an association, not cause and effect.

The mechanism behind this increased risk is unknown, but the researchers state it’s possible that the pathways of some biomarkers that are dysregulated in ADHD, Mads, dementia and Parkinson’s, namely, cortisol, are also affected after a concussion.

The paper, published in the BMJ journal, states that future research is needed to explore the relationships between concussion and ADHD, MADs, dementia and Parkinson’s in other populations.

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