Why a Career in Hand Therapy?


Hand therapy is a specialty in which practitioners utilize a blend of science and creativity to address functional limitations in the upper extremity including hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

Occupational or physical therapists can work within this field using their knowledge and expertise in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Occupational therapists are trained to address physical, mental, developmental, and emotional deficits to support participation in meaningful daily activities. In hand therapy this can include pain, decreased range of motion, swelling, decreased skin integrity, decreased strength, decreased dexterity and fine motor coordination. After working as an OT or PT for 3 years and completing at least 4,000 hours of direct care in orthopedics, an OT or PT can sit for their Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) exam.  As a fun fact, there are only about 6,300 CHTs in the world, so we think we’re pretty special!

Diagnoses treated in hand therapy consist of but are not limited to repetitive stress injuries, injuries from sports, arthritis, nerve compression, and fractures. Additionally, practitioners can treat post-operative, preventative, non-operative, conservative, and industry consultation.

So why choose a career path in hand therapy? There are many pros!

  1. We fabricate custom orthotics that help patients use their upper extremities with less pain, protect surgical procedures and provide rest and balance to healing tissues. This may be my favorite part of the job as it is very satisfying to make something that immediately provides individuals with relief and added function. We use a variety of splint materials and patterns and there is potential for a lot of creativity in this area.
  2. Hand therapists collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide patients with the best care. At Ortho RI, we work regularly with doctors, physician assistants, medical assistants, physical therapists, and therapy aids. It is a great group to be around and to be able to gain and share information with.
  3. Great job security. The employment of OTs is projected to grow 14% from 2021 to 2023, which is much faster than average. Did I mention there are only about 6,300 CHTs in the world?
  4. People use their hands ALL the time and when hand function decreases, it can have negative effects on an individual’s physical, emotional, financial, and even familial wellness. Hand therapists can have a positive impact on patients’ wellbeing in sometimes just a few short 30-45 minutes therapy sessions. In these sessions, therapists get to know their patients very well and learn about their most meaningful occupations (hence “Occupational Therapy”). Therapists help patients find ways, either through exercises, splinting, adaptive equipment, or activity modifications, to participate in these purposeful tasks. Sometimes this is as simple as attaching material to build-up a tool, such as a car key, to enable someone with decreased hand mobility and/or stretch to start their car without difficulty. Modifications call for creativity are an occupational therapist’s bread and butter and fall directly within our expertise!