What is Hand Therapy?

“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

2014 June

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is either an occupational therapist or physical therapist who has a minimum of 5 years of clinical experience in a hand therapy related specialty. This therapist has passed a certification examination of intense upper extremity rehabilitation and theory. The CHT must maintain the credential by attending/presenting continuing education courses in the field of upper extremity and submit continuing education units to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission every 5 years.

Conditions treated by a hand therapist include acute trauma (tendon lacerations, finger amputations, crush injuries, peripheral nerve disorders, fractures, dislocations and sports related injuries); Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and scleroderma; Congenital or acquired deformities.

Treatment techniques employed by a hand therapist can include but not limited to:

  • Customized activity/exercise regimen to promote healing, range of motion, dexterity and strength
  • Desensitization, sensory re-education
  • Ergonomic Modifications  Custom orthotic fabrication
  • Postoperative therapy to include scar management, edema management and strengthening
  • Use of modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, paraffin bath, Fluidotherapy, thermal modalities
  • Patient education for joint protection and energy conservation
  • Work conditioning