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Hand Therapy

What is Hand Therapy

American Society of Hand Therapist Definition of 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 Certified Hand Therapist?

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) 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.  The CHT designation is conferred after the requirements of a minimum of 5 years practice as a therapist, 2000+ hours of direct hand therapy work, and satisfactory score on the certification exam.  Certification is maintained through meeting specific continuing education requirements and continued satisfactory work experience.

What does a Hand Therapist provide?

A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat any problem relative to the upper extremities. The hand therapist can effectively treat and rehabilitate the patient through postoperative rehabilitation, preventative, non-operative, conservative treatment, or industry consultation. The therapist works closely with physician and patient 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.

Postoperative Rehabilitation

  • 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
  • Protective custom splinting
  • Restoration of motion and strength

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 correction of injury
  • Training in the performance of daily life skills through adapted methods and equipment
  • Conditioning prior to returning to work

Industry Consultation

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?

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Industrial medicine facilities
  • Privately owned therapy clinics
  • Sports medicine facilities
  • Academia

Who is a candidate for hand therapy?

Patients with the following conditions may benefit from hand therapy:

  • Acute or Chronic pain conditions
  • Patients affected by an accident or trauma
  • Loss of motion, strength, and/or functional use
  • Scars, burns, and injured nerves
  • Fractures
  • Amputations of fingers, hands, or arms
  • Patients suffering from conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological conditions (stroke)

If you feel you may benefit from the services of a Certified Hand Therapist, contact Louisiana Orthopaedic Specialist Rehabilitation Department at 337-235-8007Patient Education brochures

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