a close-up of a doctor holding a stethoscope

Hand Therapy Week

June 03, 2024

What Is A Hand Therapist?

An Occupational or physical therapist that has graduated from an accredited OT or PT program who through advanced continuing education, clinical experience and integration of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology has become proficient in treatment of upper-quadrant conditions resulting from trauma, disease, a congenital or acquired deformity.

A Certified Hand Therapist is a Occupational or Physical Therapist that has practiced for a minimum of three years treating clients with upper extremity conditions and injuries and accumulated at least 4,000 hours of direct client care. A certification exam must be passed before the therapist can use the CHT designation. A CHT must continue to obtain continuing education and practice in the field of hand therapy and recertify every five years.

BGO's Karen Clark, OT, CHT Working with a Patient

Conditions and Diagnosis

A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat the following:

  • Amputations
  • Arthritis
  • Burns
  • Birth defects
  • Central nervous system conditions
  • Crush injuries
  • Cysts
  • Cumulative trauma
  • Elbow and finger contractures
  • Fractures
  • Infections
  • Ligament injuries
  • Lymphedema
  • Tendon and nerve injuries
  • Wounds

Hand Therapist/CHT Provide a High Quality of Care

A variety of techniques and activities are utilized:

  • Activity and exercise to increase range of motion and strength
  • Adaptive techniques and assistive devices
  • Desensitization, scar care and sensory re-education
  • Electrical and thermal modalities
  • Ergonomic instruction and modifications
  • Joint protection
  • Manual therapy
  • Orthotic fabrication
  • Pain management
  • Patient and family education
  • Prosthetic training
  • Wellness education
  • Work conditioning
  • Wound management

Why See a Hand Therapist/CHT?

Hand Therapist and CHT's work in hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation centers and in outpatient clinics. Occupational therapists and physical therapists are trained to treat basic hand conditions but are also trained to treat more complex injuries such as tendon and nerve repairs and upper extremity fractures that may need specialized treatment protocols and splinting fabrication. Hand therapists and CHT's often work very close with the hand surgeons and very often in the same clinic.

Find a CHT

A Certified hand therapist can be found on an online directory such as the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC) or on the directory for the American Society of Hand Therapists website.

About the Author:

Rita Brown, OT, CHT