Hand Therapy

Regain Function and Motion in Your Hand, Wrist, Elbow, Forearm, or Shoulder

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You may be referred for hand therapy following an injury, surgery, or condition that affects your hand, wrist, elbow, forearm, or shoulder. Hand therapy can help you regain motion and function following a fracture, nerve, tendon, or ligament injury, joint instability, and arthritis.

Hand therapy is performed by Duke occupational therapists who specialize in hand therapy. They work closely with orthopedic hand surgeons and plastic surgeons to evaluate your concerns and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your personal goals. They can range from dressing yourself and caring for your children to returning to work or sports.

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Occupation-based Care

As occupational therapists, our hand therapists focus on returning you to your occupation. Occupation refers to activities you do every day, such as dressing, bathing, grooming, or feeding, as well as sports, playing a musical instrument, work, and caregiving. Our hand therapy team teaches you how to reduce pain and protect the joints in your arm. We help you learn to use adaptive equipment such as can openers, rocker knives, and built-up handles) and promote activity modification, such as learning better carrying techniques when lifting.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Hand Therapy Treatments

Your first session with a hand therapist will include a comprehensive evaluation, identification of your personal goals, and initial treatment. We use a wide variety of hand therapy treatments.


Your hand therapist may teach you to perform exercises that improve your range of motion and strength

Custom Orthotics

Following an operation, your surgeon and hand therapist may recommend a custom orthotic brace or device to protect your hand. The orthoses are made from thermoplastic, which is molded to you in the clinic by your hand therapist. Other types of orthoses may be recommended to improve function, increase your range of motion, and regain your strength. Our hand therapists are trained and skilled in identifying, designing, and creating a wide variety of orthoses. Occasionally, your hand therapist will work with other providers to help you obtain prefabricated, mass-produced braces or devices.

Manual Therapy

You may be a candidate for some or all of these manual therapies, which can help you recover and improve function. Your hand therapist will perform a complete assessment to determine which of these techniques is right for you. 

  • Sports taping techniques
  • Joint mobilization
  • Scar massage and treatments
  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization uses specially designed tools to work on soft tissues. OT hand therapists at the North Carolina Orthopedic Center are trained in ASTYM techniques, a type of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization.
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Why Choose Duke

Extensive Skills and Knowledge
Many Duke OT hand therapists are board-certified, meaning they have met the rigorous requirements set by the Hand Therapy Certification Commission. The requirements include three years of experience, 4,000 hours of patient care specific to hand and arm rehabilitation, and passing a comprehensive examination. To maintain the certified hand therapist (CHT) credential, Duke hand therapists must complete continuing education in hand and arm rehabilitation.

Advanced Equipment
Our hand therapy team are expert in the use of the latest advances in equipment to meet your hand and arm rehabilitative needs.

We Work as a Team with Your Surgeons and Doctors
The OT hand therapists are often part of your doctor’s clinics, which ensures your hand therapist has consistent and direct contact with your provider. We work as a team to ensure we meet your needs.

On-going Research
Our hand therapy team is active in the research community and often assists with research alongside our hand surgeons. The hand therapy team participates in ongoing journal article reviews to ensure we stay up to date on new evidence. Several hand therapy team members have presented on rehabilitation topics at the national and state level.

This page was medically reviewed on 09/12/2022 by