Hand Therapy: Typical Diagnoses That Require Treatment


The hands are an extremity you use every single day. But they are likely not something you pay much attention to - until they become a problem. And that’s where hand therapy comes in.

Surprising to some, the hand is a complex structure with 27 bones - as well as numerous ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Similar to any other body part, a physical therapist or occupational therapist can choose to specialize in hand therapy.

These Certified Hand Therapists, or CHTs, must undergo various training and examination to receive their certification. Their training includes 4000 clinical hours and 3 years of clinical practice. Afterwards, they can register for the exam. If they pass, they become a Certified Hand Therapist. Then they must further renew their certification to practice hand physiotherapy every 5 years.

But who visits a Certified Hand Therapist? What diagnoses do hand therapy interventions play a part in?

The following outlines the most common diagnoses that require hand therapy:

1. Interphalangeal Joint (Joints of the Finger) Injuries Can Require Hand Pain Treatment

Although finger injuries do not “sound” serious, they can de more debilitating than you think. When an injury occurs at the interphalangeal joint such as trigger finger, mallet finger, jersey finger or boutonniere deformity everyday tasks such as buttoning your shirt or doing your hair can become painful and cumbersome. These injuries need to be addressed rather than ignored and may require physical therapy for splinting and or rehabilitation.


Finger dislocations, sprains, or strains may not only affect your daily life but may also be detrimental for  certain sports or occupations. If the quarterback’s throwing hand becomes injured or a musicians dominant hand that strums a guitar becomes non functional, occupational hand therapy exercises and techniques may ensure a full and proper recovery - without any lingering pain or disability.

A certified therapist will guide you through various strengthening and range of motion exercises. They will also perform appropriate manual hand therapy techniques as needed. These strategies will ensure full function is regained and will reduce chances of future injury.

2. Hand Therapy for Pre- and Post-Wrist or Hand Surgery

Surgical and non surgical wrist or hand patients are frequently referred to a CHT. Surgery may have been required for a number of reasons, including arthritis, strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fractures.

Physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis is quite common. Yet, a CHT may provide a more in-depth approach - especially since they have more experience dealing with the delicate structures of the hand with appropriate hand therapy tools and techniques.

Further, a Certified Hand Therapist may be able to provide better intervention before surgery - and they have the necessary skill set to potentially help their patient avoid surgery altogether.


3. Most Wrist Pain Can Be Helped With Hand Therapy Exercises

The effectiveness of a Certified Hand Therapist in dealing with problems like wrist pain comes back to them having a more experienced and detailed view of the hands and their surrounding structures. They may be able to perform a better job than a  physical or occupational therapist without specific training in this area. They are also able to make splints for all different types of injuries that involve the hand, wrist or fingers.

4. Hand Therapy Techniques Address Elbow or Forearm Pain

For a regular physiotherapist or occupational therapist, regaining strength and range of motion for their patient after an elbow or forearm injury may prove to be a lengthy and frustrating task.

Yet, a CHT is able to provide expertise on braces and other hand therapy tools. These assistive devices help the area heal and regain range of motion. They may further be able to provide more options for elbow and hand therapy exercises than a physiotherapist without certification for hand therapy.

Get the Specialization You Need from a Certified Hand Therapist

If you’re seeking wrist, hand, or thumb pain treatment, consider seeking out more specialized care. Hand therapy interventions can ease your discomfort while preventing future injuries. Take advantage of those that know best. Get your pain checked out by a physical therapist with a CHT degree before it becomes a bigger problem than it has to be.

With the BetterPT website or app, you can find the exact type of physical therapist you need. We make it easy for you to connect with the experts. Start your road toward recovery today!

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