What Is A Hand Therapist?

what is hand therapist

If hand, arm, or shoulder problems are interfering with your daily life, a hand therapist can help you manage pain and restore motion. 

Many patients who undergo surgery for a hand or wrist condition are disappointed to realize that their journey to hand health doesn’t end when they’re discharged. Rather, it’s just beginning! Surgery marks the start of the recovery process, which typically only ends after a round of physical therapy with a specialized PT known as a hand therapist.

Patients don’t have to have surgery to utilize a hand therapist; in fact, a hand surgeon may recommend seeing a hand therapist prior to or instead of surgery. But for patients who have already undergone hand surgery, hand therapy ensures that you can smoothly transition between surgery and total recovery. Ultimately, a hand therapist’s job is to help your hand return to top form. 

What is hand therapy?

Hand therapy is both a science and an art. A good hand therapist can work around your movement issues with out-of-the-box activities to increase the motion and strength of your hand. The most experienced hand therapists — Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) — are verified by the Hand Therapy Certification Examination after practicing for a minimum of five years and meeting stringent higher education qualifications. 

CHTs work closely with doctors and surgeons, but also pay special attention to their patients’ personal habits and work requirements in order to restore your hand’s health and strength. 

It’s important to note that hand therapists do not just treat hands from the wrist down — CHTs are trained in treating for the whole “upper extremity,” ranging from the shoulder to the fingertips. 

What are the benefits of hand therapy? 

For anyone who has recently undergone surgery on their hand, fingers, wrist, elbow, or upper extremity, a hand therapist can guide your post-op transition back to normal use of your hands and arms. In addition, patients who are experiencing hand pain but would rather not get surgery may be able to benefit from hand therapy.

Hand therapists can offer a diverse array of solutions. If you have suffered from nerve damage, a hand therapist can work to help you feel again. If you have chronic pain, a hand therapist can help you manage it. If you’re struggling with immobility, a hand therapist can help you leverage splints to target your problem areas. The end goal of hand therapy is to get you functioning at normal levels again, and to eliminate pain or incapacity.

What kind of hand therapy exercises can you expect?

Hand therapy lies at the intersection of art and medicine. That’s because the treatment options often rely on the therapist’s own creativity — which is why it’s vital you choose an expert hand therapist. 

That said, some hand therapy treatment solutions are heavily scientific. Therapists sometimes use electrical stimulation, assistive devices, and hot or cold treatments to balance the physics of your hand. Still, other treatment options require the therapist to design creative activities for increasing strength, reconditioning movement, and managing pain.

Should I see a hand therapist? 

If you are experiencing pain or dysfunction with your fingers, hand, arm, or even shoulder, you should consider seeing a hand therapist. Hand therapists treat a wide variety of patients; there’s no one type of person who can benefit from hand therapy. Hand therapists commonly help people who are recovering from hand surgery, who need to build strength and function, or who have experienced sports-related sprains and tears. If you have nerve damage, from a nerve disorder or a neurological condition like a stroke, a hand therapist can help you increase your level of function. And hand therapists can even help you if you have sustained damage to the outer layers of your hand, like a burn or an infection. 

If damage to your hand, arm, or shoulder is interfering with your daily life, make an appointment with the doctors at Florida Hand Center. With years of experience treating hand concerns, we can recommend the best treatment option — surgical or otherwise — and refer you to an excellent hand therapist for primary or post-operative treatment. Stop by Florida Hand Center for a free hand screening, then make an appointment with one of our board-certified hand doctors today.