April is national Occupational Therapy month so we are celebrating this important profession by highlighting our very own Kristin Biggins, OTD, OTR/L, CHT. Kristin joined Missoula Bone & Joint in 2020, bringing years of experience as a Certified Hand Therapist, CHT to our therapy team. She received her MS in Occupational Therapy in 1992 at San Jose State University, her doctorate in Occupational Therapy in 2013 at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, and her CHT in 2003. Kristin has continued to learn and develop her skills with additional certifications in cancer exercise, professional yoga, and lymphedema. Kristin enjoys listening to her patients’ life stories, and using her clinical reasoning skills to help her patients. She also likes that her job encompasses both art and science. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, fishing, yoga, and playing with her dogs. Kristin not only brings her expertise to the therapy team, but ensures the team is having fun and being spoiled with homemade treats.
What is a Certified Hand Therapist?
Kristin shares her title with only 30 Certified Hand Therapists in the state of Montana, but what does this mean?
Hand therapy is a specialty practice in orthopedics that focuses not only on the hand but can include the entire upper extremity. The overall goal of hand therapy is to restore as much return of hand/arm use as possible given the patient’s particular condition. The discipline is practiced by occupational and physical therapists. After treating hand and upper extremity injuries for a minimum of 2000 hours, a therapist is eligible to sit for the hand therapy certification exam, and upon successfully passing the exam, will have the designation of being Board Certified and a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT.)
CHTs cover a wide variety of orthopedic conditions that can include traumatic injuries and chronic painful conditions, such as joint replacement, tendon/nerve repair, fracture stabilization and amputation, as well as soft tissue trauma. Treatment of these post-op conditions will often require fabrication of a custom orthosis (splint) to stabilize and protect the area during healing. CHTs also treat conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis of the digits, wrist and elbow, inflammatory arthritis, sprains and instability of joints.
If you find yourself requiring the services of a CHT, it will most likely be as a referral from a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. The experience will start with a one-on-one interview as part of a comprehensive evaluation for the purpose of putting together a treatment plan. During the evaluation, the CHT may take measurements of movement, strength, swelling, sensory and identify the various symptoms related to your condition.
During your initial visit, you will receive a detailed home exercise program that is designed to advance range of motion and strength, decrease swelling, address scar tissue and manage pain. The therapist/patient experience is a collaborative one, involving discussion about activities, level of hand use, concerns and your goals. There is also ongoing communication with your referring doctor.
Kristin Biggins is an Occupational Therapist and her passion lies in connecting with her patients, educating them about their diagnoses, and assisting them in getting back to the activities that they love through occupation-based interventions. She has had a focused career as a certified hand therapist treating a wide variety of upper extremity diagnoses including orthopedic, trauma related, management of the arthritic hand, overuse syndromes, and neurological disorders.
We are very grateful to have Kristin as a part of our therapy team. If you have questions about scheduling an appointment with Kristin and the services she offers, please call our Therapy Department at (406) 542-4702