Hand therapy is the art and science of evaluating and treating injuries and conditions of the upper extremity (shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand). It uses a number of therapeutic interventions to help return a person to their highest level of function. It evolved from the need for a specialist with the knowledge and experience required to manage the challenging recovery of complex hand and upper extremity injuries.
Who is a Hand Therapist?
A hand therapist is a physical therapist or occupational therapist who, through advanced continuing education, clinical experience and integration of knowledge in anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, has become proficient in treatment of pathological upper extremity conditions resulting from trauma, disease, congenital or acquired deformity. A hand therapist may achieve advanced certification as a certified hand therapist (CHT). To obtain the CHT credential, a therapist must practice for a minimum of five years, accumulating at least 4,000 hours of treatment for hand and upper extremity disorders. Certified hand therapists must also pass a rigorous certification exam to demonstrate their competency in the practice.
What can a Hand Therapist do for me?
Hand therapists bridge the gap from medical management of upper extremity conditions to successful recovery, allowing individuals to function normally in their daily lives. Hand therapists provide non-operative interventions, preventative care and post-surgical rehabilitation for a wide variety of upper extremity disorders, from simple fingertip injuries to complex replanted extremities. Patients with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, or neurologic conditions, such as a stroke, can benefit from therapy through education on joint protection and energy conservation, and with recommendations for adaptive equipment or devices to improve function. A hand therapist employs a variety of techniques and tools, including activity and exercise programs, custom orthotic fabrication, management of pain and swelling and wound and scar care. A hand therapist can also be a consultant in the industrial world, training employees in healthy work habits.
A hand therapy specialist provides:
- Accurate assessments, immediate care and effective treatment to reduce treatment time
- A continuum of care eliminating the need for multiple medical providers
- Faster recovery results in decreased medical costs
- Functional outcomes ensuring a faster return to work and productive lifestyle
- The most comprehensive care for their patients
Why See a Hand Therapist?
A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat any problem related to the upper extremity. The hand therapist can effectively treat and rehabilitate the patient through post-operative rehabilitation, preventative, non-operative or conservative treatment or industry consultation. The therapist works closely with the physician and patient to provide a continuum of care. This often starts within days of the injury or surgery right through the patient’s return to work and/or a productive lifestyle.
A hand specialist will have advanced certification as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT).