A hand therapist is an occupational or physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of patients with shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand injuries. These may include fractures, nerve injuries, soft tissue injuries, burns, tendinitis, sprains/strains, tendon lacerations, arthritis and infections.
A hand therapy program usually involves an initial evaluation of strength, soft tissue, joint motion, sensation, coordination, skin integrity, pain and swelling of the affected part of the arm/hand.
A treatment program is then developed to maximize recovery and enable the patient to return to work, social activities, sports and other pre-injury activities.
A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is an occupational or physical therapist with extensive experience in the specialty of hand therapy. In addition, CHT's have to pass a national certification exam that demonstrates competency in the treatment of hand and upper extremity injuries and conditions.
As of 2003, therapists taking the CHT exam are required to have 4,000 hours of hand therapy experience to be certified. While many occupational and physical therapists may treat hand/upper extremity injuries, Certified Hand Therapists would be expected to achieve better rehabilitation results since they have demonstrated competency as "specialists."