Imagine turning a doorknob or making a sandwich when pain prevents you from using your fingers, wrist, elbow or shoulder. It's easy to forget how much we depend on the intricate system of muscles, bones and tendons that run from the fingers to the shoulders.
How Hand Therapy Helps You Return to Everyday Tasks2019-08-19 Hand therapists offer techniques, education and equipment to help you perform tasks with less pain and more independence.
Losing function in arms, wrists or hands from repetitive stress, diseases or accident may need specialized therapy to help you return to an active lifestyle and daily tasks.
What Does A Hand Therapist Do?
Hand therapists offer techniques, education and equipment to help you perform tasks with less pain and more independence. "We help people learn to be independent. It's exciting to see them get back to living life," said Angela Polmateer, OTR, CHT, a Franciscan Health certified hand therapist at the Lafayette Family YMCA.
What Conditions Do Hand Therapists Help?
Hand therapists can help treat pain in the hand, wrist or arm, with the goal of reducing pain or increasing mobility and functionality.
Many conditions can affect the upper extremities, including:
Hand therapists develop rehabilitation programs that best suit your individual needs.
"Doctors often count on us to be their eyes and ears," Polmateer said. "They know a patient won't have to see multiple medical providers if they can get specialty treatment from a certified hand therapist, which often means a faster recovery."
Do I Need To Have Surgery To See A Hand Therapist?
No. Hand therapists may be part of your team after a surgery, however, they can also provide treatments without an operation.
"A hand therapist has the training to treat an orthopedic patient after surgery, for example, or if surgery isn't an option, help them optimize what they have," Polmateer said. "Some people need preventive therapy for arthritis, for instance, or therapy to deal with phantom pain after an amputation."
Can Hand Therapists Help After Stroke?
Certified hand therapists can also work with patients who are dealing with a stroke or a spine injury.
"Many places don't provide hand therapy for neurological conditions," Polmateer said. "At Franciscan, we're comprehensive and holistic, giving people tools they need to move forward and get back to the activities they're missing, regardless of what condition they have."
What Is A Certified Hand Therapist?
A certified hand therapist is a physical therapist or occupational therapist with specific training and expertise in treating arm and hand conditions. A certification in hand therapy requires at least three years of professional experience as an occupational or physical therapist, including 4,000 hours specifically of hand therapy experience, and passing a written certification exam. There are more than 6,000 certified hand therapists in the United States.
Learn more about rehabilitation services at Franciscan Health in Indiana and Illinois.