Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: See a CHT from Home

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist:  See a CHT from Home

With roughly 7,000 Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) in the world, there is a likely chance that you may have a difficult time finding one near you. And if you have a hand or upper limb injury, seeing a CHT is a must to help maximize and expedite your recovery.

Due to the pandemic, most of you have become very familiar with online video platforms like Zoom, Google Meets, etc. Perhaps you have been working from home so all your meetings are online or you have at least experienced an online appointment with your doctor.

Similarly, many CHTs have brought their services online using safe and secure platforms since the onset of the pandemic to accommodate patients during these uncertain times. This means that now people in rural areas or those choosing to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID have access to hand therapy specialists. And fortunately, more people are catching on and taking advantage of these services.

In addition to the convenience of telehealth, another advantage of online hand therapy is the insight into your personal environment. Telehealth gives you the opportunity to show your therapist the functional impacts of injury on your life within your own home or workspace. This can be a tremendous help when navigating not only the physical limitations but also the roller coaster of emotions and questions that come up when you are at home healing.

What is an online session like with a Certified Hand Therapist?
Picture this: You recently broke your wrist and have been experiencing swelling and stiffness in your fingers. You are having a difficult time completing your everyday activities around your house. By accessing a CHT online from your computer or phone, you can show the CHT exactly what activities you are having difficulty doing. The therapist can directly watch you perform the task and listen to your concerns, and then create an effective exercise program to address your finger stiffness, show you how to reduce the swelling in your fingers, and suggest modification strategies to help you complete your daily tasks as you are recovering. 

Just imagine all the activities you do with your hands and arms on a daily basis that you may be having difficulty completing due to an injury or condition. What better way to get you back to those activities than having your therapist help you within the very environment you perform them in. This can be especially helpful for musicians, artists, or hobbyists where bringing their instrument or craft to a therapy clinic can be impossible.

How can an online certified hand therapist evaluate me?
The evaluation process is very similar online to the way it would be in person. The only difference is the therapist is not sitting across a table from you; rather, the therapist can see you through your device’s camera. The therapist will ask you questions and gather a history of your symptoms as well as any relevant medical information.

Then typically, objective measurements are collected as the CHT guides you through a series of movements. This is where the online hand therapist can really see your abilities and limitations. Typically, you are instructed through various ranges of motion and you may be instructed to apply light weight or resistance using your other hand or using an item around the house to assess your strength capabilities.

The therapist will also ask you several other questions related to your sensation, pain, and function. And as mentioned above, the online CHT may want to watch you perform various tasks around your house that you may be having difficulty completing independently. If you are seeing an online CHT right after a hand or upper limb surgery, they will take the necessary precautions during your assessment to ensure you are following your post-surgical protocols.
Finally, based on the assessment findings, the online CHT can begin to create an effective treatment plan geared toward helping you reach your goals.

It is important to mention, the knowledge and abilities of a CHT to help you do not change because the mode of therapy is online. In fact, there are some situations in which it can be enhanced.

With that said, there are certain medical conditions in which in-person therapy is highly recommended over online.  A certified hand therapist can assist you in this decision and help you find one nearest you. If you are interested in telerehabilitation, or online hand therapy, contact your local hand surgeon or hand therapist, and ask if they offer online hand therapy services. 


Michelle Coil, MOT, OTR, CHT, PYT, CEAS is a Certified Hand Therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists.