Hand Therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb – shoulder to hand. It involves evaluating and testing to assess the injured upper limb to which a specific treatment program can be designed. A variety of treatment techniques can be utilised to achieve these goals (AHTA).
What is a Hand Therapist?
A Practitioner of Hand Therapy is an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist who through further education, clinical experience and independent study, is proficient in treating upper limb conditions resulting from injury, disease and / or deformity (AHTA).
Hand Therapists can either be an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist who has specialised in the niche area of hand and arm therapy rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, Hand Therapy is not currently recognised by Private Health funds. The national representative body, the Australian Hand Therapy Association is Australia’s only professional association representing Practitioners in hand therapy. It provides support for its members through continuing education, professional development, networking and representation at state and national levels. It also acts as a central referral point for doctors and members of the public seeking the services of Practitioners in Hand Therapy in specific geographic locations.
Through its membership of the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy (IFSHT), the AHTA is also able to assist in locating Practitioners in hand therapy in other countries.
This well recognised and respected field enables Specialist Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgeons to maximise their conservatively managed and operatively managed patients and outcomes.
Caseloads within Hand Therapy can include:
- Emergency departments
- Private practice
- Public health care systems
- Community health and hospitals
- Medico-legal assessments
- Ergonomics – FCEs and Vocational rehabilitation
- Sporting Clubs
- Professional education opportunities
- Tertiary education opportunities
Demographics of Hand Therapy patients may include:
- Private Health
- Public Health
- EPC Medicare Benefit Scheme
- DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Compensable eg Workplace injuries, CTP Insurance
- Sports – Elite athletes and weekend warriors
- Musculoskeletal Injuries
- Orthopaedic Injuries
- Degenerative- eg OA, Rheumatoid Arthritis,
- Aged care
The Scope of Practice in Hand Therapy at Active Hand and Upper Limb Therapy on the Gold Coast includes but is not limited to:
- Assessment and education
- Thermoplastic splinting – Immobilisation, and Mobilisation
- Casting and Bracing (Fibreglass and Plaster of Paris)
- Objective, Subjective and Standardised Assessments
- Wound Care Management and Dressings
- Oedema Management
- Scar Management
- Pain Management
- ROM – Active, Passive, Splinting
- Dry Needling
- Joint protection/ Energy conservation techniques
- Return to Functional Activities and Work
When to refer to a Hand Therapist?
When you need the specialised skills of an Accredited Hand Therapist, check out www.ahta.com.au/findatherapist.
David Coles, Accredited Hand Therapist as awarded by the Australian Hand Therapy Association, from Active Hand and Upper Limb Therapy on the Gold Coast looks forward to regular Blogs on common Hand and Upper Limb Conditions through Allied Health Support Services.
Allied Health Support Services DIRECTORY – gives users online access to professional development, support, networking and opportunities anytime and anywhere.