Member Profile: Cullinen Hand Therapy

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The hands are easily taken for granted. They’re just always there and they work as we need them to—until a time may come when we don’t have the full use of our hands, fingers or upper extremities.

Sandi Cullinen, a licensed Occupational Therapist, founded Cullinen Hand Therapy in 2004 to provide treatment when the upper extremities don’t work as they should.

The age ranges of Sandi’s clients run from the late 90s to the youngest, a 9-month-old baby who had had put her hands on the edges of a belt of a running treadmill, tearing the skin from her tender hands. The child needed extensive skin repair but at that young age, the child would be extremely difficult to make proper progress. But Sandi had an idea. She had the mother of the child pick Sandi up just before the child’s afternoon nap. Sandi would climb in the car, next to the child, who would sleep peacefully as the mother drove around the neighborhood for an hour, all the while Sandi working gently on the sleeping child’s hands.

Post injury work can be provided within a day or two of surgery or at any time in the rehabilitation process. Hand and occupational therapy services may include consultation and evaluation, manual therapy including joint mobilization, post-operative care, wound care, a customized home exercise program and much more.

“My field is medical, but part of it is art as well. I find great satisfaction in creating custom splints for my clients that help them live in a world that might have been more challenging otherwise,” says Sandi.

Clients are referrals through doctors, mostly from the Bay Area such as Stanford, UCSF, California Pacific Medical Center and some from the south Bay.

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Sandi’s had some interesting cases over the years. Some have included toe to thumb transplants, teaching people about joint and tendon care and how to manage with adaptive equipment. She also sees people after joints had been replaced, provides wound care and teaches exercises to her clients that allow them to use their hands once healed.

Sandi also provides vital treatment for hand and finger conditions such as nerve trauma and repairs, crush injuries, burns, amputations and wrist and elbow injuries, she also mentors student interns from local schools and universities who need supervised training hours to meet the requirements of the occupational therapy field, teaching them modalities, patient care and how to deal with new and unusual injuries. It also gives the students a chance to see the field in action.

And Sandi is known to provide not only in her medical office but by looking at the whole person and what creates challenges for them. For example, during her treatment program she purchased a special lap tray for the client who was having trouble due to tremors putting her medicine in her weekly medicine container. She kept dropping the pills and her dog would eat them—not good for client or her dog. Once she had the tray where the pills could fall, no more dropping them to the floor for the dog and a considerably easier refill process. Sandi sees it as her job to work with the whole client, not just that which she sees in the office.

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To that end, Sandi has what she calls a “fainting chair” in her therapy room. She explains that some of her clients have a problem with looking at blood or wounds. She knows those clients and steers them to her special chair. If the client faints, he or she is safely in a chair and Sandi continues her treatment, much to the client’s ease.

Prior to her hand therapy work, Sandi Cullinen has many years of other medical experience providing quality care to patients, including those with a diagnosis of stroke, head trauma, Guillain-Barre and spinal cord injuries. She also has worked at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital doing acute inpatient care for orthopedic and neurologically impaired patients. In 1983 she was trained to work in the outpatient department as a hand therapist which happily led her to her specialization in hand therapy.

Article written by Susan Kashack.

Cullinen Hand Therapy is located at 7950 Redwood Dr. Suite 13 in Cotati. You can find out more information on their business website at