When do you need hand therapy?

Hand therapist Conor O’Brien demonstrates what he does.


You may benefit from hand therapy if you have a condition that is affecting your shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand


By Conor O’Brien, Occupational Therapist, Nuvance Health


Do you have an issue with your shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand? A certified hand therapist may be able to help you. 

Let me explain how hand therapy — a type of occupational therapy and my specialty — can effectively treat and rehabilitate people.


Learn more about occupational therapy at Nuvance Health.


Common reasons to need hand therapy

If you have any of these shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand conditions, hand therapy might help you:

  • Fractures
  • Ligament and tendon injuries
  • Nerve injuries
  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Trigger finger
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • Joint replacements after trauma or arthritis conditions
  • Trauma such as amputations, lacerations and crush injuries

How does hand therapy work?

Hand therapy brings together art and science to evaluate and treat injuries and conditions of the upper extremity. We use a number of therapeutic interventions to help return a person to their highest level of function.


Occupational therapists who specialize in hand therapy study anatomy, physiology and kinesiology to become proficient in the treatment of upper extremity conditions resulting from trauma, disease, congenital or a deformity.


It’s important to work with a knowledgeable hand therapist. In the end, a therapist can make all the difference in the person’s recovery.


Related content: What is occupational therapy for common health conditions?


How can I get hand therapy?

Your doctor or surgeon will usually refer you to a hand therapist after surgery or prevent the need for surgery. At Nuvance Health, you can also request an appointment with a licensed occupational therapist.


We usually recommend that you start therapy within days of being injured or having surgery. How long you have hand therapy will depend on your condition and how long it takes for you to return to your daily routines.


What should I look for in a hand therapist?

A certified hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who has a minimum of three years of hands-on experience. That includes 4,000 hours or more with direct practice in hand therapy


In addition, a therapist must pass a comprehensive board exam of advanced clinical skills and theory in upper quarter rehabilitation.


The bottom line: A certified hand therapist may be able to help you if you have an injury or had surgery that is affecting your shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand. Speak with your doctor or surgeon to get a referral to a certified occupational therapists who specializes in hand therapy.


Conor O’Brien is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist with Nuvance Health. He sees patients in Fishkill and Carmel, NY. Hand therapy is offered at many rehabilitation locations.