A hand therapist is a registered occupational therapist or physiotherapist specialist in the rehabilitation of patients with conditions affecting the hands and upper limb.
A hand therapist’s high level of specialisation requires advanced post graduate education and clinical experience. An experienced hand therapist can evaluate and identify problems effecting the upper limbs. He or she can provide advice regarding exercise, preventative care, aids to daily living and ergonomic consultation (BAHT 2017).
Who does a hand therapist treat?
A hand therapist treats any patient requiring intervention specific to the hand or upper limb. A specialised detailed assessment and treatment enables him or her to help patients return to a productive lifestyle following injury, disease or deformity affecting the hand.
At Blackrock Clinic our hand therapy team works closely with our consultants in planning necessary surgical intervention and facilitating timely, effective specialist rehabilitation.
Most patients seen in hand therapy will have difficulty with pain, function or the aesthetic appearance of the hand as a request of injury, surgery, acquired condition or disease.
Conditions treated include (but not limited to):
- Nerve Injuries
- Nerve compression syndromes
- Tendon injury
- Wrist/ finger/ thumb instabilities
- Hand pain
Hand therapy intervention can include:
- Splinting: Splints can be fabricated from thermoplastic, neoprene or plaster of paris. Splinting offers a costumed bespoke design to protect and position an injury to facilitate healing. Splinting can also be used to rest painful joints, promote movement, prevent deformity and enable functional use of the hand. Your therapist will discuss with you and provide a splint suitable for your clinical indications.
- Wound Care: The hand therapy team is skilled in wound care. This includes cleaning, dressing, removal of sutures and advice on wound management. All wound care is provided as per hospital protocols to reduce risk of infection and facilitate healing.
- Exercises: Exercise is provided specifically for rehabilitation post injury, following detailed assessment by the hand therapist. Exercise is important as part of successful rehabilitation post injury or surgery. Exercise can also be used to maintain function and strength.
- Manual therapy techniques: Are used to improve mobility, function and to reduce swelling.
- Oedema (swelling) management: Swelling post injury or surgery can effect the movement and function in the hand. Effective management can reduce swelling and aid recovery.
- Scar management: Scar tissue is a natural part of the body’s healing process. Scarring can lead to reduced function in the hand or can lead to a sensitive, painful or unsightly scar. Your therapist will assess and guide you with effective care for your scar.
- Functional assessment and advice: Any injury to the hand or upper limb can affect how you function in everyday life. This can include home life, work and leisure activities. Your therapist will advise and guide you on how to return to these activities successfully throughout your recovery. In some cases, returning to full function is limited due to the severity of the condition or injury. Your therapist can assess, advise and educate on techniques to enable you to maximise your ability.
How can I refer to see a therapist?
In most cases you will be referred to a hand therapist by your GP or treating consultant.
If you have a hand injury and you are concerned, you can self refer for a detailed assessment and treatment plan.