ASHT provides this section of the website to offer patients and the general public information on hand and upper extremity therapy and common hand and upper extremity conditions.

What is hand and upper extremity therapy?

Hand and upper extremity therapy is the art and science of evaluating and treating injuries and conditions of the upper extremity (shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand). Hand and upper extremity therapy 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

What is a hand therapist?

A hand therapist is an occupational or physical 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.

What does a hand therapist provide?

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 hand and upper extremity 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 and recommending modifications of workstations and alternative work methods to help ensure healthy work styles of all employees.

Where do hand therapists work?

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Industrial medicine facilities
  • Privately owned therapy clinics
  • Sports medicine facilities
  • Academia

How can I find a hand therapist?

To locate a hand therapist in your area, visit the ASHT Find a Member Therapist directory. You can search the directory by city, state, ZIP or last name. A prescription from your physician may be necessary before you can visit a hand therapist.

To find a hand surgeon in your area, please visit the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and American Association for Hand Surgery directories.

To learn more about common diagnoses hand therapists treat, please visit the Patient Education Resources page.