When you or someone you care about experiences an injury or has pain in their hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders, it’s time to think about getting help. Following are a few things that are important to know beforehand.
WHAT IS A HAND THERAPIST?
A hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who, through advanced study and experience, specializes in treating individuals with conditions affecting any area from the fingertips to the shoulders.
WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS DO HAND THERAPISTS HELP WITH?
A hand therapist provides care for patients who are having problems with the use of any part of their arms due to pain, disease, disorders, or injuries to their fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, or shoulders, or a combination of these parts.
IS SEEING AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST OR PHYSICAL THERAPIST THE SAME AS SEEING A CERTIFIED HAND THERAPIST (CHT)?
No, not at all. A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is a therapist that is not only governed and credentialed by their respective profession, that being either Occupational Therapy (AOTA) or Physical Therapy (APTA), but by another entire separate entity, the American Society for Hand Therapists (ASHT) along with the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC).
In the journey to become a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT), which requires a minimum of 3 years in the field of Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy, including 4,000 hours or more in direct practice in hand therapy, there are MANY additional criteria that must be met. This includes requirements for providing direct hands-on treatment with ALL types of shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand issues; continuing education; and, formal testing. Once achieving this status, a Certified Hand Therapy (CHT) must maintain another level of criteria ranging from continuing education, mentoring, volunteering, research, lecturing, teaching and more – just to keep his or her certification every 5 years. All of this must be pre-approved by HTCC, a CHT’s governing body. This is above and beyond what we need to do as an Occupational Therapist or a Physical Therapist. This area of therapy, Hand Therapy, is one of only a few that requires competency and has again, its own separate credentialing body.
HERE IS AGREAT EXAMPLE OF WHY YOU SHOULD SEEK OUT A CERTIFIED HAND THERAPIST (CHT)?
If you had a heart problem, you would most likely have learned about this from your primary care physician or a visit to the ER. Once the problem was identified, you would see a cardiologist or cardio-thoracic surgeon and often then go to cardiac rehab. You would see a specific physician and therapist for the very important part of your body, your heart.
Now think of how important your upper body is to your daily function. The loss of function in any aspect due to injury, pain, disease, etc., HIGHLY impacts your livelihood and the quality of your life.
When your primary care physician or hand surgeon refers you to therapy, wouldn’t you rather see a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) who specializes in your specific area of need? A CHT who is required to stay highly educated in their field just like a cardiologist or cardio-thoracic surgeon. Wouldn’t you want the highest level of care when your hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders are not working or causing you a lot of pain?
HOW DO I FIND A CERTIFIED HAND THERAPIST (CHT)?
There are only 6500 CHT’s internationally and a listing can be found at HTCC.org. We are most fortunate to have two highly experienced, credentialed CHT’s available to our patients. At our clinic, Michelle Schneider, OTR/L, CHT has been with us for 18 years. At our sister clinic, David Gilboe & Associates in St. Clair Shores, Kris Moonan, OTR/L, CHT has been with us for 25 years. Both have worked directly with hand surgeons and physicians and have had incredible results with our patients. They have earned tremendous respect from them, our team and other specialists and experts in their field.