What is hand therapy?

Hand therapy is the practice of treating injuries or conditions that affect the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder or other parts of your arm. A physical or occupational therapist helps you do exercises and other rehab options.

Your doctor might recommend hand therapy instead of more invasive treatments, like surgery. Hand therapy is useful as a rehab after surgery or other medical procedure.

Exercises work to help you relieve pain and stiffness, reduce sensitivity or learn how to feel again after a nerve injury. The goal is to improve your quality of life by helping you resume normal activities. It can also help you get back to work if your injury or condition  kept you from performing the required tasks for your job.

What to expect from hand therapy

Before performing any exercises, your hand therapist will evaluate your hand or arm to assess what your needs are. Your therapist also works closely with your doctor. They monitor your progress and make sure the exercises are helpful for your condition.

Your hand therapist uses different tools and techniques, depending on your condition. This will likely include some activities and an exercise program for your hand or arm. Your hand therapist can make custom orthotics or splints to help improve stiffness.

If you have a wound or burn that needs care, your hand therapist will show you how to care for it to prevent infection, reduce swelling and minimize scarring.

If your injury or condition will affect your job, hand therapists can show you how to adapt to your work environment. They can talk to your employer about how to create a healthy work environment to prevent similar injuries in other employees.

Common conditions requiring hand therapy

Hand therapy involves the entire upper extremity and not just the hand.

This treatment covers a variety of injuries and conditions, including:

  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Amputated fingers
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Recovery from operation on hand
  • Hand injuries, such as burns, wounds, damaged tendons or nerves and fractures

Mercy Health locations that can treat you