ASHT provides this section of the website to offer patients and the general public information on hand therapy and common hand conditions. Please use the links to the right to find more information on specific topics.
What is Hand Therapy?
Hand therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper extremity of the human body. Hand therapists are occupational therapists or physical therapists who, through extra training and experience, have specialized knowledge of upper extremity function. Using specialized skills in assessment and treatment, hand therapists work with their clients to prevent injury or impairment, restore functional activity, and enhance participation in daily life."*
*Adapted from the Hand Therapy Certification Commission
What is a Hand Therapist?
A hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who, through advanced study and experience, specializes in treating individuals with conditions affecting the hands and upper extremity. A hand specialist may also have advanced certification as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT).
What does a Hand Therapist provide?
A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat any problem related to the upper extremities. The hand therapist can effectively treat and rehabilitate the patient through postoperative 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.
- Management of open or sutured wounds (prevention of infection and assistance in healing)
- Control of hypertrophic (raised and/or swollen) or hypersensitive scars
- Reduction of swelling
Preventative, Non-operative, or Conservative Treatment
- Management of acute or chronic pain
- Desensitization following nerve injury or trauma
- Sensory re-education after nerve injury
- Design and implementation of exercise programs to increase motion, dexterity and/or strength
- Splint fabrication for prevention or corrections of injury
- Training in the performance of daily life skills through adapted methods and equipment
- Conditioning prior to returning to work
Hand therapists may consult with various industries establishing preventive programs for workers with cumulative trauma disorders. Hand therapists recommend modifications of workstations and alternative work methods to help ensure healthy work styles of all employees.
Why use a Hand Therapy specialist?
- Accurate assessments, immediate care, and effective treatment reduce 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.
- Hand therapists – both occupational and physical therapists – enhance the skills of others to provide the most comprehensive care for their patients.
Where do Hand Therapists work?
- Rehabilitation centers
- Industrial medicine facilities
- Privately owned therapy clinics
- Sports medicine facilities