Hand therapists are specialized physical or occupational therapists who evaluate and treat issues related to an ‘upper extremity’ (think hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders).
Here's how to find a great hand therapist to help you with your joint pain issues.
What to look for in a Certified Hand Therapist
It's important to find a therapist that specializes in hand and upper extremity rehabilitation.
The easiest way to know if your physical or occupational therapist specializes in hands is to look for the letters "CHT" after their name, which stands for "Certified Hand Therapist".
This means that this person has at least 4,000 hours of hand and upper extremity experience and has undergone rigorous testing.
What happens when you visit a Certified Hand Therapist?
A good hand therapist will develop a rapport with you and center you in the rehabilitation process. This means taking the time to get to understand your joint pain issues, listening to your concerns and explaining your options.
The first visit, also known as the "Initial Evaluation" is often spent getting to know you and your issue and establishing a plan of care.
This entails taking a thorough history related to your upper extremity issue, taking objective measurements to establish a baseline, and instruction in a home exercise program (HEP) to get you going.
Most of the work is up to the patient, so make sure you get going on your homework.
The first visit is also a time for you to ask questions about the rehabilitation process. Don't be afraid to speak up, there are no stupid questions, your Certified Hand Therapist is on your side.