Hand Therapy Demystified


Our hands feel, grasp, manipulate, coordinate, pinch, carry, support and stabilize in almost everything we do throughout the day. They are such an integral part of our daily tasks, an injury can be debilitating. Especially so because the hand is a perfectly balanced extremity with a sophisticated and intricate anatomy consisting of tendons, muscles, bones, fascia, blood vessels, ligaments, and nerves. That’s why treatment of a hand injury should be performed by a therapist with specialty training and experience.

What is Hand Therapy?
Hand therapy is the art and science of rehabilitating the upper extremity, including evaluation and treatment of shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and finger injuries. Those who benefit include people who have suffered a traumatic injury with fractures, wounds, scars, injured tendons and nerves; or people who suffer from chronic overuse syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger fingers, or arthritis. To be seen by a hand therapist for an evaluation and treatment of an injury or condition, a prescription for therapy is required by a physician.

How can a Hand Therapist help?
Hand therapists typically work closely with the referring physician to provide a continuum of care as therapy may begin within days of injury or surgery. A hand therapist can fabricate custom splints for each individual case, provide thorough education regarding diagnosis and treatment, and provide a desensitization program for sensory re-education following a nerve injury/trauma. They also assist with managing acute or chronic pain in the upper extremity, provide joint mobilizations and scar management following an injury/trauma, simulate work tasks for an injured employee, and customize a home exercise program. In a holistic approach, they also address the social, emotional, and physiological effects of the injury/condition.


What is a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)?
An experienced hand therapist may obtain an advanced certification known as a CHT (Certified Hand Therapist) through the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC).
A CHT is either an occupational or physical therapist who has successfully passed a rigorous, comprehensive exam consisting of advanced clinical skills as well as theory in upper quarter rehabilitation. According to HTCC there are currently 6,044 CHTs in the United States, comprised of 85% occupational therapists and 14% physical therapists.
To sit for this exam, a therapist must have a minimum of three years of clinical experience and 4,000 direct treatment hours in the field of hand therapy. To maintain the CHT recognition, recertification is required every five years, which requires 80 hours of professional development and continued work experience in hand therapy. It is the personal responsibility of each CHT to maintain their certification through continuing education, independent study, research, and teaching to demonstrate current knowledge of evidence-based techniques and research.

What are the benefits of working with a CHT?
The Certified Hand Therapist credential offers assurance to the public that the therapist has achieved the highest level of competency in the profession and stays up to date with practice within the field, assuring maximal recovery.

Hand therapy is available at multiple locations within OrthoRI including Providence, Wakefield, and Warwick.

For more information about hand therapy, including specific conditions treated, talk to your doctor or visit:  American Society of Hand Therapists or Hand Therapy Certification Commission.



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