From the first article that I have written I have been telling you about how in love I am with hand therapy and that hand therapy was my motivation for becoming an Occupational Therapist.
You might be asking yourself, ‘What is hand therapy?’
Hand therapy is the rehabilitation of the upper extremity / upper limb which includes the shoulder, top part of the arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand. It is important to notice that the hand is not treated as separate from the arm and shoulder, but is considered as one entity that should be treated as a whole.
There is a wide variety of conditions that is treated within the specialized area of hand therapy, and includes congenital abnormalities, traumatic injury, soft tissue damage and degenerative conditions. We will discuss conditions treated by an Occupational Hand Therapist in another article.
The goal of hand therapy is to optimize the functional use of the upper limb (arm +hand) in order to enhance a person’s ability to perform tasks and to fully participate in life. Therapeutic intervention is provided through the use of specialized skills in assessment, planning and treatment to restore function, prevent dysfunction and/or reverse pathology progression.
Therapeutic intervention is conservative (non-operative) and although preventative care enjoys a great level of importance, most upper limb and hand rehabilitation take place post-operatively (after surgery).
One might think knowing what hand therapy is, is great but, ‘Where can I go for Hand Therapy’?
You can receive hand therapy in different settings depending on your unique situation. You may go to an acute setting like a hospital, a physical rehabilitation unit or to a specialized hand practice.
Many general practitioners (GP) and surgeons will refer you to a Hand Therapist if so indicated, however self-referral is also commonly seen.
Now that you have a general idea of what hand therapy entails, you most likely would like to know, ‘Who can give Hand Therapy?’
Hand therapist are professionally qualified after completing a degree in either in Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy and there after commit themselves to extensive education within the specialized area of Hand Therapy. They also have the opportunity to belong to professional associations linked to hand therapy.
Hand therapist in South Africa can become members of the South African Society of Hand Therapists (SASHT), however this is not compulsory and many hand therapist choose to only pay for compulsory membership at the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
In shorthand 😉
“Hand therapists treat with exercises and activities, apply modalities and create custom made splints to help the hand heal and protect it from additional injury.
Although the physical treatment entails treatment of the upper limb, emphasis is placed on reintegration into the workplace, activities of daily living and leisure time pursuits.” 
- American Society of Hand Therapists, 2011. Position Paper on Hand Therapists’ Scope of Practice. [Online]
Available at: https://www.asht.org/sites/default/files/images/Practice/ASHT%20Scope%20of%20Practice.pdf
[Accessed 19 02 2018].
- American Society of Hand Therapists, n.d. What We Do. [Online]
Available at: https://www.asht.org/about/what-we-do
[Accessed 17 02 2018].
- South African Society of Hand Therapists, n.d. Home. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sasht.org.za/
[Accessed 17 02 2018].