Hand Therapy Tool

What to Expect at Your First Certified Hand Therapy Appointment

Because your hands are so important, we understand you may be nervous about who treats yours and how.

Hand therapists are occupational or physical therapist who have advanced training in the evaluation and treatment of the upper extremity. They are required to pass a rigorous certification exam and have at least three years of experience, including 4,000 hours of direct practice in hand therapy.

ARC Physical Therapy+ offers a Certified Hand Therapy Fellowship program for those interested in pursuing this additional certification. We are committed to being a leader in head therapy.

To prepare you for a possible first visit, we talked with two Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) here at ARC Physical Therapy+ – Jean Sublette, OT/CHT, and Hannah Page, OT/CHT:

What do you do to make people feel comfortable?

Jean: Patients are nervous when starting therapy – no matter what type or what injury, so I try to make them feel welcome. I allow family/spouse when space allows.

Hannah: I first ask if they have attended therapy before. Then I prep them for what they will see, what therapy looks like, how we will progress, and ask if they have any questions about their diagnosis. I also always educate patients on the reasoning behind the exercises we’re doing. We make modifications as we go depending on tolerance of exercises/activities/symptoms.

How long will the appointment take?

Jean: I would expect each appointment, including the first one, to take approximately one hour. I anticipate patients to have many questions regarding their injury, treatment plan, and prognosis for outcomes.

Will it hurt?

Jean: Initial treatment shouldn’t be painful. We always try to be gentle!

Hannah: Differing individuals, surgeries, and injuries all have variable perceptions of pain. Our goal is not to produce pain. We make people function again, and that pain route may look very different for every individual.

What will you ask the patient?Hannah Page

Hannah: I ask them a variety of questions regarding medical history, mechanism of injury, whether they are right or left hand dominant, and most importantly, what they want to get back to doing and their big goals to achieve while in therapy.

Jean: I ask how they got injured, what medical intervention has been performed, and to tell me about their pain and tenderness/sensitivity.

I ask about their activities of daily living (ADLs), including what they can or cannot do and whether they have or need assistance with tasks around the home. If the injury is work-related, I ask what their job is, specific job tasks, what restrictions they are on, and what type of job they anticipate returning to.

What else happens at that first appointment?

Jean: I take objective measurements of tenderness, swelling, range of motion, strength, and sensitivity – all to the patient’s tolerance. This is to get a baseline for measuring improvements.

All of this is performed within the limitations/guidelines of the prescription from the physician. It shouldn’t be terribly painful. We try to be very aware of pain or sensitivity.

Will patients have homework?

Hannah: I print off exercises for people to complete at home with sets and reps. We can do everything in therapy, but that homework is key to recovery.

What happens after the first appointment?

Hannah: After the first appointment, I typically have my patients come in and start with either a warm up or heat depending on injury status. Then we will go through initial exercises as well as add new ones in to progress the individual toward their goals.

What’s the biggest thing you want potential patients to know?

Jean: My basic philosophy is to treat each patient as I would want my family to be treated, so I work to make that initial evaluation and treatment is as relaxed as possible and interactive.

I tell patients that their physician has done his/her job with either surgery or diagnosis, and the rest of their treatment is “a team effort” – working together to obtain the highest possible level of functional use for their hand.

Hannah: We have a variety of tools to help individuals get their lives back after injury. Buy in is key, and have fun while you are doing it!

What’s Next? 

Click here to learn more about the benefits and capabilities of Certified Hand Therapy at ARC Physical Therapy+.

We also welcome you to call us at 844-755-4272.

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