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.
As a CHT for more than 30 years, what I still love most about my job is the satisfaction of helping a patient achieve a great outcome!
By Tim Tracy, Certified Hand Therapist, Missoula Bone & Joint, (406) 542-4702
Here is what one patient said about the care she received from Tim – “Tim Tracy is wonderful, right on top of things, listened to me and followed up and gave me great info. He was always on time and I am extremely pleased with my treatment. I also enjoyed the music he played.” Davia S. July 2018