There are 27 bones in the hand, supported by a very complicated ligament-tendon structure that provides an amazing ability to deal with our world. The hand is integral to how we care for ourselves and others, how we drive and play ball, and how we create art and communicate with others. And it is usually our first line of defense in protecting ourselves.
It's no wonder that to specialize as a certified hand therapist requires a minimum of five years' therapy experience and thousands of hours of direct hand therapy.
"There aren't too many of us," says Amy Britton, hospital occupational therapist and certified hand therapist. "We deal with everything from post-surgical patients and fractures to burns and laceration repairs to arthritis. We teach patients how to manage symptoms and learn to live with them so they can function in everyday life without causing more trauma to the joints."
Her focus, says Britton, is on function - the things a patient needs to get through a day of caring for self and family, performing on the job, driving, or managing a home.
"You really have to understand the biomechanics and the anatomy of the hand," she says. "It's all about balance. When you disturb one part with a fracture or other injury, the whole hand is incapacitated, and so is your day."