Physical Therapists Treating Hand Patients

Why do physical therapists treat patients with a multitude of injuries including spine, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle (to name a few), yet we don’t work with patients with hand and wrist disorders?  Rather, we pass these patients off to our occupational therapy partners. Our OTs are excellent clinicians, but I believe that PTs should expand their knowledge base to include these areas of treatment.  We learn the basics of anatomy and biomechanics of the hand and wrist in school, but when we get to the clinical setting our treatment stops at the wrist. In some clinics, the OTs will work with patient injuries from the hand all the way up to the shoulder while the PTs will only work with lower extremity, balance, and spine cases.

I believe we are missing many patients who could benefit from our services. Several wrist injuries such as distal radius fractures, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis can be treated with a basic knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics.  Of course, post-op care for tendon ruptures and repairs requires more education. But if you have an interest in this area of study you can start by attending continuing education courses and consider pursuing a certification in hand therapy.  Currently, there are only a handful of PTs in the state of Illinois who are also CHTs. Hand therapy is a very exciting area to study with a large patient population that can use our expertise.