Occupational Hand Therapy Q and A

You have heard of hand therapy, but you’re not quite sure how it differs from physical therapy, or how it could benefit you. The two specialties have a lot in common, since a hand therapist is essentially a physical therapist. Their difference lies in that a hand therapist focuses on the evaluation and treatment of injuries and conditions that affect the upper extremity (hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, arm, and shoulder).

If you’re experiencing pain in your hand or in any other part of your upper extremity that is not alleviated with medications and other basic remedies, you could greatly benefit from hand therapy. Below are a few questions about hand therapy that can help you get useful insight into the treatment discipline.

Q: What Does a Hand Therapy Session Typically Involve?

Hand therapy and therapeutic modalities.

Your first session involves your hand therapist doing a complete assessment to get a clear picture of your current level of function and difficulties, understand your diagnosis and medical history, and craft a goal-oriented treatment plan. and identify a goal orientated treatment plan

During your succeeding sessions, your therapist will acquaint you with certain treatment modalities, such as temperature therapy, ultrasound therapy, electrical stimulation therapy, and massage therapy, which are aimed at alleviating your symptoms and helping gradually restore the normal function of your hand. Your hand therapist will also teach you different exercises, some of which you can do at home, to speed up your recovery.

Q: How Can a Hand Therapist Help Me with My Fracture?

If you broke a bone in your upper extremity, hand therapy is crucial for ensuring its quick and proper healing. Hand therapists are specially trained in making custom orthoses (braces and splints), and they can create one according to your unique anatomy. A custom orthosis— which provides the fractured area with adequate support, allows for proper alignment and stabilization, and promotes proper and faster healing— is an excellent adjunct to the other treatment modalities your hand therapist will use.

If you have a hand or wrist fracture, the immobilization can cause your fingers to get stiff. Your hand therapist can help prevent this by having you do safe and gentle exercises.

Q: How Frequent Will My Sessions Be? 

Your hand therapist will tailor your treatment sessions to your specific condition and goals. You may see your hand therapist two to three times a week, but this and each session duration may change over time. Your first session can last up to 1.5 hours and the subsequent ones, an hour on average.

Q: How Long Does a Hand Therapy Program Take?

Your program may take two months or less, depending on your specific condition. It is important not to rush the process. Nonetheless, weeks into your program, you should notice a gradual improvement in your symptoms, strength, flexibility, and function.