“Hand therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle. It is the merging of occupational and physical therapy theory and practice that combines comprehensive knowledge of the structure of the upper limb with function and activity. Using specialized skills in assessment, planning and treatment, hand therapists provide therapeutic intervention to prevent dysfunction, restore function and/or reverse the progression of pathology of the upper limb in order to enhance an individual’s ability to execute tasks and to participate fully in life situations.” Journal of Hand Therapy; 2009(22)361-376), ASHT Scope of Practice; 2011.
What is a Hand Therapist?
A hand therapist is a nationally registered occupational therapist or physical therapist who, through advanced continuing education, clinical experience and integration of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, has become proficient in treatment of pathological upper-quadrant conditions resulting from trauma, disease, or congenital or acquired deformity. A hand specialist may also have advanced certification as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT). A CHT has a minimum of three years of clinical experience, successfully passed an examination of advanced clinical skills and theory in upper extremity rehabilitation and meets mandated criteria to maintain this specialized credential.
What is a Hand Therapist? (ASHT Patient Education Resource)
A hand therapist provides care for patients with a diversity of upper extremity disorders and injuries, from simple fingertip injuries to replanted extremities. Diagnoses include but are not limited to patients with crush injuries, tendon and/or ligament lacerations/repairs, tendinopathies, peripheral nerve disorders, fractures/dislocations, infections sports-related syndromes and more. Hand therapists also treat patients who suffer from chronic problems which affect upper extremity function, such as autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, pain, diabetes, focal dystonia, congenital anomalies and psychogenic disorders involving the upper quarter.
Hand Therapists Provide the Highest Standard of Care
A qualified hand therapist evaluates and treats any problem related to the upper extremities. The hand therapist effectively provides postoperative rehabilitation, non-operative or conservative intervention, preventive care and industrial ergonomic consultation. A variety of techniques and tools may be used in therapeutic intervention, including but not limited to:
- Activity/exercise regimes custom designed to increase motion, dexterity and strength with the ultimate goal of improving function
- Behavior management
- Compressive therapy
- Desensitization, sensory re-education or sensory compensatory techniques
- Electrical modalities
- Ergonomic modifications
- Adaptive techniques and suggestions for adaptive/assistive devices equipment
- Industrial consultation
- Joint protection and energy conservation training
- Manual therapy
- Orthotic fabrication for post-op surgical protection/immobilization, correction of injury or deformity and conservative management of common upper extremity syndromes
- Pain management, acute or chronic
- Patient and family education
- Prosthetic training
- Scar tissue management
- Thermal modalities
- Wellness education
- Work conditioning/hardening/retraining
- Wound management
Advantages of Hand and Upper Extremity Therapy
- Accurate assessments, immediate care and effective treatment reduce overall treatment time
- The continuum of care eliminates the need for multiple medical providers
- Faster recovery results in decreased medical costs
- Resulting functional outcomes ensure a faster return to work and productive lifestyle
Find a Hand Therapist Near You
ASHT offers an enhanced directory for you to find a member therapist in your area.