What is a Hand Therapist?

A Hand Therapist is an occupational or Physical Therapist who specializes in the treatment of patients with shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand injuries. These may include fractures, nerve injuries, soft tissue injuries, burns, tendonitis, sprains/strains, tendon lacerations, arthritis and infections. A hand therapy program usually involves an initial evaluation of range-of-motion (ROM), strength, soft tissue,  sensation, coordination, skin integrity, pain and swelling of the affected part of the arm/hand. A treatment program is then developed to maximize recovery and enable the patient to return to work, social activities, sports and other pre-injury activities.

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is a registered and state licensed Occupational or Physical Therapist who has demonstrated exceptional clinical skills and have passed a national specialty exam in the treatment of upper extremity pathology resulting from trauma, disease, congenital deformity, or an acquired deformity. With the ever-increasing complexities of injuries and the continued advancement of new surgical procedures, the treating therapist is required to have greater experience and specific knowledge base to treat the patient effectively

Therapists taking the CHT exam are required to have 4,000 hours of hand therapy and 5 years of hand-on treatment experience.   Once the therapist has passed the exam, they are a certified hand Therapist and add CHT after their name and licensure initials (OT/L or LPT).  While many Occupational and Physical Therapists may treat hand/upper extremity injuries, Certified Hand Therapists have demonstrated through evidenced based research to have achieve better rehabilitation results since they have demonstrated competency as "specialists."