When to see a hand therapist

Hand therapist Conor O’Brien demonstrates what he does.

By Conor O'Brien, Occupational Therapist, Nuvance Health


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


This Occupational Therapy Month, let me explain how hand therapy — my specialty — can effectively treat and rehabilitate people.


Some common conditions I treat include:

  • 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


Referrals required

Patients are usually referred to a hand therapist by a doctor after surgery or to prevent the need for surgery.

Therapy often starts within days of a person being injured or having surgery and may continue right through the patient’s return to work or to their day-to-day routines.


Clinical requirements

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.


Important 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.


We 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.


Conor O’Brien is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist with Nuvance Health, who sees patients in Fishkill and Carmel, NY. Hand therapy is offered at many rehabilitation locations. Read more about specialized therapy services and locations here.