The role of the hand therapist is to help guide you through your recovery following a hand injury or elective operation. The aim is to help you regain the highest level of function possible and return to activities that are important to you.
Following an injury or elective operation to your hand, wrist or forearm the plastic or orthopaedic surgeon will advise you when it is safe to begin hand therapy. This may be whilst you are on the ward, during a clinic appointment or at a time that is convenient for you to attend an outpatient hand therapy appointment.
People normally have multiple needs following a hand injury or operation including splinting, exercises and education. Your hand therapist may be a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist who has undertaken extra training. This means that when you are referred to hand therapy you will most likely only need to see one therapist who is trained to provide all the care that you require.
On your first visit your hand therapist will assess what your needs are in consultation with you. They will help you to understand your condition and develop a treatment programme to meet your specific requirements. Much of the treatment can be carried out on your own at home with regular outpatient hand therapy reviews to ensure you are improving. Some people require more care and appointments will be arranged to meet each individuals needs.
Some people are unable to return to their previous level of function. The hand therapist will assist with difficult issues such as work, pain management and aids and adaptations to cope with home responsibilities. To ensure that all your needs are met the hand therapist may refer to other professionals including therapy services closer to your home, disability employment advisors and pain management colleagues. Close contact will also be maintained with your surgeon to ensure that they are informed of your progress and to help plan further treatment if needed.