What is a Certified Hand Therapist?
A hand therapist is an occupational or physical therapist who, through advanced study, specializes in rehabilitating patients with conditions affecting the hands and upper extremity.
This specialty requires continuing education and, most often, advanced certification. This enables the hand therapist to work with patients to hasten their return to a productive lifestyle.
Who Does a Hand Therapist Serve?
A hand therapist works with patients who may have been affected by an accident or trauma leaving them with wounds, scars, burns, injured tendons or nerves, fractures, or even amputation of the finger, hands, or arms.
A hand therapist also treats patients who are disabled from the affects of repetitive motion disorders – such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. Many patients seeking the care of a hand therapist also suffer from chronic problems such as arthritis or a neurological condition.
A hand therapist works with the patient – in any situation – to provide a continuum of care. This often starts within days of the injury or surgery right through to the patient’s return to work and/or a productive lifestyle.
What Does a Hand Therapist Provide?
A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and identify any problem relative to the upper extremities. The hand therapist can effectively treat and rehabilitate the patient through such methods as rehabilitation, postoperative rehabilitation, or industry consultation.
- 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
- 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
- Prescribed therapeutic activity
- 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 the work environment and alternative work methods to help ensure healthy work styles of all employees.
www.AAOS.org for education modules:
Safety Guide for Young Athletes
Arthritis of the shoulder
Osteoarthritis of the elbow
Arthritis of the hand
Arthritis of the Thumb
Arthritis of the Wrist
Restoring Hand Function after SCI
Surgery & Smoking
handsurgery.org for public resources for FAQ’s on common hand conditions.