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Helping Hands - Why Hand Therapy is Vital

Health Articles |
Categories: Robotic Surgery
Woman performing hand therapy

We use our hands to interact with the world – to communicate, work and play.

“We don’t realize how much we rely on our hands until injury, overuse or illness limits what we can do with them,” says Wendy Kennedy, OTR/L, CHT, a licensed occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Doylestown Health.

“A hand therapist is a bit of a misnomer, because we treat conditions affecting the elbow, hands, wrists and fingers,” says Wendy. “Anyone who is experiencing limited hand, wrist or elbow function can benefit from hand therapy. You can ask your primary care physician or specialist for a prescription to see a hand therapist.”

Certified hand therapists are occupational or physical therapists with special training and experience in upper extremity (arm) rehabilitation who have passed a certification exam. They help people recover function after surgery or fracture, repetitive use, tendon and nerve injuries. They also treat people who have lost upper extremity strength or function due to a medical condition such as Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, scleroderma or stroke.

Early Treatment is Key

“Unfortunately, we at times don’t see a patient until their problem is debilitating, such as advanced arthritis or tendonitis that they’ve had for six months to a year. Even minor injuries can lead to significant impairment of the hand without therapy,” says Wendy. “The best time for therapy is early on as it can help prevent progression of the disease or pain.”

What Hand Therapists Do

Each patient goes through a comprehensive evaluation, and receives a personalized, evidence-based treatment plan. The ultimate goal is to help people achieve their highest level of function.

Treatment may include therapeutic activities and exercise, manual therapy, pain management techniques or sensory therapies to restore feeling after a nerve injury.

Hand Therapy Can Be Protective and Preventative

Hand therapists can help people with a degenerative condition such as arthritis by teaching techniques designed to improve function and flexibility and reduce pain, such as:

  • Joint stress and strain reduction
  • Activity modification
  • Ergonomics for work and home
  • Energy conservation strategies
  • How to use bigger muscle groups to avoid stressing smaller muscles
  • Use of adaptive devices that make it easier to perform tasks, such a utensil designed to help a person whose hands are weak to remove the lid from a jar.

Help with Healing

Custom, thermoplastic splints

Rehabilitation after surgery or injury requires expert care to ensure proper healing. For instance, during the first three to six weeks after a tendon repair, a patient has a high risk for rupture (a partial or complete tear of the tendon that may cause pain and loss of function) – a challenge, because too much scar tissue can interfere with movement and too much movement can lead to rupture. In addition to following protocols that support safe and effective healing of all kinds of upper extremity injuries, CHTs are skilled in making custom splints that protect against injury, but are removable for therapy. The splints are made of a special plastic that becomes moldable when heated.


Scar tissue from injury or surgery can cause stiffness and prevent movement. Ultrasound helps to soften scar tissue to allow the structure to heal and move freely.

BTE Simulator 2

Building strength is a big part of recovery, and the BTE Simulator 2 allows therapists at Doylestown Health to simulate real world activities by attaching different tools. The simulator can mimic specific tasks like opening a jar or climbing a ladder, allowing patients to build strength in a functional way.

Learn more

The Hand Therapy Program’s new location in the Clark Outpatient Rehabilitation Center on the Main Doylestown Health campus combines convenience with a bright, healing atmosphere and state-of-the-art technology.

Clark Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

Clark Outpatient Rehabilitation Center from Doylestown Health Foundation

About Clark Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

The Clark Outpatient Rehabilitation Center offers physical, occupational, and speech therapies as well as hand therapy, lymphedema therapy, and pelvic floor rehabilitation, and programming for neurological impairments with ample space. Its location within steps of Doylestown Hospital—and convenient parking—on the health system’s flagship campus is in careful consideration of facilitating patient access to these popular and critical services.

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