Hand Therapy typically addresses the biomechanical issues underlying upper-extremity conditions. However, Occupational Therapy practitioners differ from Hand Therapists by bringing an added dimension to this specialty practice. They use an occupation-based and patient-centered approach that identifies the participation needs of the patient—whatever he or she needs to be able to do in daily life that is fulfilling, necessary, and/or meaningful—and emphasizes the performance of desired activities as the primary goal of therapy.
Occupational Therapists ask, “What matters to you?” not, “What’s the matter with you?”
In simplest terms, Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) help people across their lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities also known as occupations. Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:
- An individualized evaluation during which the client/family and Occupational Therapist determine the patient’s goals.
- A customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals.
- An outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.
Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers.
Hand therapy, a specialty practice area of occupational therapy, typically centers around treating orthopedic-based upper-extremity conditions to optimize the functional use of the hand and arm.
Conditions seen by a Occupational Therapist specializing in hand therapy would include, but are not limited to:
- fractures of the hand or arm
- surgical repairs of tendons and or nerves.
Acquired conditions such as tendonitis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are also treated by occupational therapy practitioners specializing in hand rehabilitation. Therapists who treat clients with conditions of the hand or arm can do so without additional formal education in most states. However, many practitioners choose to gain several years of experience before treating hand clients, and therapists may choose to become Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) through the Hand Therapy Certification Commission.
Why an Occupational Therapist Makes a good Certified Hand Therapist
An Occupational Therapist makes a great Certified Hand Therapist with the understanding of functional daily activities involving the hand, awareness of occupational job demands, and extensive knowledge of injuries/impairments and the rehabilitation of the hand and upper extremity. Occupational Therapists specialize in getting patients back to the activities that they need to do and want to do. Many of those activities do require the use of their hands. OT’s training to break down an activity step by step allows us to effectively assess what our patient’s specific needs are. There is a level of commitment required to obtain and maintain a Certified Hand Therapist Certification (CHT) which places a strong demand for continued education. The extra training and knowledge of anatomy required to obtain the CHT credential sets the OT/CHT up for a great balance of assessing the patient’s specific needs and goals while having an intricate knowledge of where to begin to get them moving toward those goals.
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