If your physician has performed a complex surgery or you have a complicated injury or illness, he may specify that you see a certified hand therapist (CHT) rather than a general practice occupational, or physical therapist.
To be sure, a CHT is an occupational or physical therapist with at least three years of experience.
But a CHT also has 4,000 or more hours of experience with upper extremity rehabilitation, or hand therapy, according to the American Society of Hand Therapists.
A CHT must have passed a certification examination that demonstrates knowledge of all areas of hand therapy. This credential must be renewed every five years through continued education and ongoing practice in the field of hand therapy (ASHT, 2019).
As a therapy specialist, a CHT can evaluate and treat orthopedic problems including post-operative hand injuries (e.g. tendon repairs); repetitive injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, DeQuervains tenosynovitis, tennis elbow, and rotator cuff problems; arthritis; and nerve injuries of the hand and arm.
For instance, a CHT might make a custom orthosis or splint to support the healing or injured structures of a patient’s hand. This orthosis would require extensive knowledge of the injury and hand anatomy and practical knowledge of the thermoplastic or casting material that would best support the hand.
In another example, a physician might refer a patient to a CHT to administer specialized testing to assist in a diagnosis. A CHT might work with a patient to decrease inflammation and pain that is masking the true underlying problem.
For more information about Certified Hand Therapy, visit ASHT.org. To find the clinic nearest to you, use our location finder.
American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT). 2019. Why see a hand therapist? Retrieved on March 8, 2019: https://www.asht.org/patients/why-see-hand-therapist
Written by Pam Tutten, OTD, OT, CHT, CFE, Mount Holly, NC center