“The hand is so critical to every minute of our daily lives that when you lose function of it your world is turned upside down. At ARC Physical Therapy+ we work with people to restore their ability to use their hands and arms everyday in a way that is meaningful to them.”
- Jan Taylor, ARC Physical Therapy+’s OT Fellowship Director and OT Resource Coordinator
The history of hand therapy
While the practice of hand therapy dates back to World War II when Orthopedic and Plastic Surgeons were trained to treat soldiers with upper quarter injuries and began working with therapists in military hospitals, it wasn’t until the 1970s that hand therapy took off. Thanks to advanced hand surgical techniques, surgeons sought therapists who could provide advanced therapy and help their patients recover.
The roots of Certified Hand Therapy
In 1975, at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand Annual Meeting, six Occupational and Physical Therapist’s recognized the need for specialization in the field of hand therapy to achieve the best results. They created the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT) and got to work sharing ideas, expanding the practice and completing research.
As part of that they developed a certification and in 1991 the inaugural Hand Therapy Certification Examination was administered, marking the designation of the first group of Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs).
Today, in order to take the grueling certification examination, which has only a 60% pass rate and demonstrates knowledge of all areas of hand therapy, therapists must:
- Have graduated with a degree in Physical or Occupational Therapy
- Have worked in the field for three years
- Completed 4,000 hours of hand therapy practice (upper extremity rehabilitation)
What is hand therapy?
According to the ASHT, “Hand therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle.”
A hand therapy specialist provides:
- Accurate assessments, immediate care and effective treatment to reduce treatment time
- A continuum of care eliminating the need for multiple medical providers
- Faster recovery results in decreased medical costs
- Functional outcomes ensuring a faster return to work and productive lifestyle
- The most comprehensive care for their patients
What do hand therapists treat?
A hand therapist provides care for patients with a diversity of upper extremity disorders and injuries.
- Post-surgical recovery
- Nerve related issues such as carpal tunnel release
- Bone-related injuries such as fractures
- Soft tissue injuries such as crush injuries
- Amputations and burns
- Tendon injuries such as a cut finger, cumulative trauma or a repetitive use injury
Hand therapy at ARC Physical Therapy+
Among those taking the inaugural certification exam in 1991 was Jan Taylor who today serves as ARC Physical Therapy+’s OT Fellowship Director and OT Resource Coordinator.
She explained what makes ARC Physical Therapy+ different:
- A commitment to excellence: The OT Fellowship Program, a mentoring program, which guides all OTs in their CHT certification process.
- The OT Fellowship Program includes dedicated education: OTs set aside 4 hours each month for education where they teach each other, complete required surgery observations and attend their patient’s physician office consultations.
CHTs: Making a difference for patients
As Jan explained, “we use our hands for everything: from feeding ourselves to taking care of our kids. A hand injury often makes those things impossible, which is why we are dedicated to restoring our patients back to their previous abilities. Whether it’s peeling a potato, holding the hand of loved one or going back to work, we work with each individual to customize a plan that gets them back to the level of function they need.”