Thursday, February 25, 2021


What is Physiotherapy Hand Therapy?

Have you ever jammed a finger playing sports or after a fall and were unable to bend or straighten your finger fully ever since?

The hand is a very complex system of tendons, muscles, and ligaments all working together to enable you to perform all the fine motor skills your hands do for you. If certain injuries are not treated promptly with the proper diagnosis, it can have lasting effects. Without the correct assessment and treatment, your jump-shot (or knitting hand) may never be the same. Next time you suffer an injury to your favourite appendage, consider a hand therapist.

Hand therapists are specifically educated and focused on treating patients with conditions affecting the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder (upper extremities). A qualified hand therapist can evaluate and treat any issue related to the upper extremity and are an excellent resource to get you back on the road to recovery.

When should you seek out the help of a hand therapist?

Individuals suffering from acute or longstanding injuries to their fingers, wrists, elbows, or shoulders can benefit from the help of hand therapists. The hand therapist will assess and determine the best evidenced-based treatment for your upper extremity injury.

Hand therapists use a number of evidence-based therapeutic treatments to return individuals to their highest level of function in their daily lives. As with all physiotherapy, you do not require a doctor’s referral to see a hand therapist.

Hand therapists also have specific training in fabrication of custom orthoses, otherwise known as splints. This requires hands on practise and experience of molding different materials directly onto the patient. Custom fit to each individual, these orthoses can serve a variety of purposes, including: to immobilize, which rests/protects the injury; assist with the client gaining motion when stiff; and assist with movement and increase of function.

Commonly treated conditions managed by hand therapists include:

  • fractures and dislocations of fingers, wrists, or elbows
  • sprains, strains, and ligament repairs
  • osteoarthritis of thumbs, wrists, shoulders
  • nerve compressions (such as carpal tunnel)
  • all other upper extremities injuries such as tendonitis, rotator cuff surgeries, and tendon injuries and repairs.

What is a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)? 

A qualified hand therapist may also hold a designation as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT). A CHT, is required to have a minimum of 3-years of clinical experience, plus 4,000 hours or more of hand therapy experience in upper extremity rehabilitation. Once this criterion has been achieved, the therapist must then pass a certification examination that demonstrates knowledge of all areas of hand therapy.

In order to ensure that certified hand therapists stay up to date with the latest and most evidenced based treatments for the upper extremities, they must recertify every 5-years, by maintaining at least 2,000 hours of work experience focused on upper extremities and at least eighty hours of professional development learning over that same 5-year period.

Although this certification is an American designation, it is well recognized in Canada, and it is a good way to ensure the competency of a hand therapist.

Nicole Littlewood is a Certified Hand Therapist at Green Hand to Shoulder Physiotherapy. You can find Nicole and other great physiotherapists in the Find A Physiotherapist section of our website

This article is produced by the Advertising Department of the Winnipeg Free Press, in collaboration with Manitoba Physiotherapy Association (출처: 프리 프레스)