So your orthopedic surgeon or primary care physician gave you a prescription for hand therapy - what is hand therapy? What types of treatment can you expect to receive? Is there a difference between seeing a hand therapist and going to see a physical or occupational therapist?
Hand therapy is a very specialized practice area within the field of rehabilitative services. The name is a little deceptive because most hand therapy clinics provide treatment for the entire upper extremity, not solely the hand. Hand therapy is the merging of occupational therapy and physical therapy theory and practice that combines comprehensive knowledge of the upper extremity, function, and activity. Using specialized skills in evaluation, assessment and treatment, hand therapists assist patients to regain maximum use of their arm and/or hand after injury, surgery or the onset of disease.
Your first visit to hand therapy consists of a thorough evaluation of your affected arm and/or hand usually comparing those results to the same results taken on the unaffected side. The therapist will evaluate not only your motion, strength, dexterity, sensation and pain but ask how difficult it is for you to perform your normal everyday activities. Your hand therapist may prescribe an initial home exercise program and provide education on your diagnosis and expected treatment outcomes. A plan of care individualized for your specific needs will be formulated and initial treatment performed.