What is Hand Therapy?

Whether you’ve had surgery, experienced an injury or simply have pain, hand therapy can help further your recovery and improve the quality of your life.

What is hand therapy?

Hand therapy is the art and science of evaluating and treating injuries and conditions of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Hand therapy uses a variety of methods to help someone use their hand and reduce pain to the fullest extent possible.

What is a hand therapist?

A hand therapist is an occupational or physical therapist with advanced training and knowledge in treating conditions involving the hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder. A hand therapist may pursue advanced specialization to become certified by accruing 4,000 hours of clinical experience and passing a comprehensive board exam after three years of practice. Hand therapists work closely with hand surgeons and can guide you through the best treatment based on your needs.

What does hand therapy involve and how will it help me?

Hand therapists will work with you to restore function in the hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder. Injuries of the upper extremity often result in pain, swelling, loss of range of motion, decreased strength and scarring. Hand therapists offer a broad range of treatment options including heat, electrical modalities, manual therapy, orthosis fabrication, return to work conditioning and pain/swelling control to help you achieve your individual goals so you can return to work, sport or everyday activity.

Conditions commonly seen in hand therapy include

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  2. Trigger finger
  3. Tendonitis
  4. Fractures
  5. Lacerations and wounds
  6. Arthritis and chronic pain

What should I expect during a hand therapy appointment?

Your hand therapist will want to make sure that you are progressing every session towards your goals. To do this, your hand therapist will assess your range of motion, strength, posture, or nerve sensation during every visit – depending upon your needs. Your therapist will also provide individual exercises that you will complete at home to further your rehabilitation.

How do I find a hand therapist?                                                                          

Visit PennPartners.org to find a hand therapist at one of 25 plus locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Or check out the HTCC website below to see a full listing of certified hand therapists nearby.

Hand Therapy Certification Commission - Find a CHT (htcc.org)


Chelsea Barker, OT, CHT
Occupational Therapist/Certified Hand Therapist