Hand Therapy Week is an integrated national program established by the American Society of Hand Therapy. This week is aimed towards raising awareness of the hand therapy specialty among various audiences, including primary care providers, surgeons, referral sources, and the public. This June marks the second year that Tidewater Physical Therapy has celebrated National Hand Therapy Week in order to help bring awareness to the specialty of hand therapy.
Last year, our focus was to introduce and explain the specialty of hand therapy as a practice. This year, we are exploring the incredible importance of Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) and gaining a little insight from each of our CHTs in order to bring knowledge to those who may need hand therapy care.
Certified Hand Therapists are licensed or registered occupational therapists (OT) or physical therapists (PT) who, through advanced study and experience, specialize in treating individuals with conditions affecting the hands and upper extremities.
Tidewater Physical Therapy has three employed CHTs: Jennifer S. Hamilton, DPT, CHT of our Salisbury clinic; William Hamilton, Jr., DPT, CHT of our Ocean Pines clinic; and Craig L. Joachimowski, PT, OCS, CHT of our Seaford clinic.
Hand therapists treat conditions such as arthritis, fractures, amputations, muscle injuries, tendon injuries, bone injuries and breaks, agricultural injuries, nerve injuries and lacerations, artery lacerations and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Common diagnoses that a CHT will treat include: tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, CMC arthritis, DeQuervain tendinopathy, extensor tendon injury, and Dupuytren disease. Hand therapy not only treats issues involving the hand, but can help treat the upper extremities, shoulders, and sometimes the neck. Because the hand is such a complicated piece of the anatomy, it is necessary for it to have its own specialty, unlike say, the foot or neck which do not require specific specialties with regard to physical therapy.
In order to help explain the complexities of hand therapy, William Hamilton says, “Hand therapy is really treatment of the entire upper extremity and possibly the neck. A nerve injury in the neck or shoulder can result in specific hand deficits. CHT's understand this relationship in great detail, which allows us to better treat patients.” Similar to an individual with severe allergy issues seeking out an allergist, an individual with hand and upper extremity therapy needs should seek hand therapy specialty help from a CHT.
Craig Joachimowski explains his passion for hand therapy, “As a hand therapist each and every day brings different problems that challenge my experience and knowledge. Each patient that I see that comes to me with a hand problem comes to me with a very unique set of problems that I need to help them overcome. I absolutely love the challenge that each patient brings to me. My most challenging patients often teach me something and that is what I cherish most”.
Regarding the specialty of hand therapy, Jennifer Hamilton says, “I feel so passionate about working with the hand and upper extremity patients because of how rewarding it is. We not only help the patient with their physical dysfunction, but many have trouble dealing with the mental aspects of their injury. It is our duty and delight to help our patients cope and then adjust to their injury, so that they then can return to their prior level of function”. CHTs can help bridge the gap from the medical management of a patient’s injury or condition to a successful recovery, allowing the patient to function normally in their everyday life.
In reading this, we hope that you have gained knowledge and are able to reach out for proper treatment should you or a loved one have any hand therapy needs. Thank you for helping us spread the word about CHTs and the specialty of hand therapy!