The Difference Between OT and PT for Hand Therapy

a medial professional assists a patient in curling a dumbbell with their hand

And Where to Find Hand and Orthopedic Physical Therapy Specialists

For those that have been searching for wrist and hand pain treatments, you have probably seen the terms “occupational therapy” and “physical therapy” numerous times during your searches. Although the goals of these two versions of hand therapy are similar in scope, it’s important to break down the type of hand conditions each therapy addresses along with other distinguishing factors.


Hand Physical Therapy vs. Hand Occupational Therapy

Before getting into the specifics of the different types of hand therapy, it’s best to clearly define the fields of physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT).

PT is intended for patients who have sustained a major injury, have chronic pain, or are attempting to rehabilitate themselves after a surgery, illness, or other event. Licensed physical therapists work with patients to improve their mobility and ease their pain levels. Since PT is generally rooted in recovery, that means that hand physical therapy is ideal for patients who:

  • Have undergone hand surgery
  • Have sustained a serious hand injury
  • Have an illness that impacts the use of hands
  • Are recovering from a stroke
  • Are adapting to an artificial limb or device

By comparison, OT is specifically aimed at helping people with common daily functions. Most OT patients are challenged by a cognitive issue or a physical and/or sensory disability that affects their physical abilities. Occupational hand therapy involves helping patients use writing utensils, silverware, a toothbrush, and other common handheld items. Whereas PT focuses on reducing pain and increasing mobility, OT focuses on improving fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, and cognitive skills. The types of patients that benefit from seeing an occupational therapist include individuals who have:

  • Sustained a serious injury
  • Compromised function due to a serious chronic illness
  • Birth defects or developmental issues
  • Spinal cord and/or brain injuries
  • Recently undergone surgery
  • Mental health issues that affect physical function
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Cognitive disorders

For those who are considering occupational hand therapy, knowing the difference between an OT and an OTA will help guide your therapist selection process. An OT is an occupational therapist; this means they have at least a bachelor’s degree in an applicable field. Comparatively, an OTA is an occupational therapist assistant; this means they can assist in helping with treatment plans, but they are not qualified to evaluate patients.


Finding Hand and Orthopedic Physical Therapy Specialists and What to Expect

Here at Mid-America Orthopedics, we’re a team of physicians, orthopedic specialists, physical therapists, and sports medicine doctors. We have decades of combined experience examining, diagnosing, and treating a diverse population of patients who are challenged by musculoskeletal issues, acute and chronic injuries, and illnesses that compromise mobility.

As previously mentioned, an occupational therapist is typically the ideal choice when it comes to regaining independence with daily activities; however, it should be known that occupational therapists are able to perform all the same patient care services that physical therapists do in regard to hand therapy.

Essentially, any wrist and hand pain treatments would be addressed by our resident occupational therapist, especially if the patient had recently undergone hand surgery, experienced trauma anywhere on the arm, or contracted an illness that compromised function and/or mobility.

Perhaps the biggest difference between our occupational therapist and OTs at other practices is that ours is a certified hand therapist (CHT). This means they passed the exam through the Hand Therapy Certification Commission and accrued 2,000+ work hours. Our CHT at Mid-America Orthopedics has the ability to deliver patient care in an OT and PT capacity.

For further clarity, PTs can deliver hand physical therapy, however, it’s important to note that the hand area is not something they extensively study. When it comes to wrist and hand pain treatments or arm trauma, it’s best to go with a CHT who specializes in that particular area of the body.

Every patient’s journey through hand physical therapy is different, which is why it’s important to work with hand and orthopedic physical therapy specialists who have the experience and training we do at Mid-America Orthopedics. It can take several months for patients to see a reduction in their pain symptoms and regain a level of mobility that allows them to function. Just know that our staff specialists and orthopedic doctors are committed to helping you reclaim your quality of life.


Contact Mid-America Orthopedics Today to Discuss Hand Therapy and Schedule an Exam

The team at Mid-America Orthopedics is dedicated to serving the residents of Wichita, which is why we are typically able to book examination appointments same-day or next-day. When it comes to musculoskeletal issues and injuries, we know that living with pain and lack of mobility can be challenging. Call now so that we can get things moving on your recovery.

The sooner you get into contact with us, the sooner we can get you started on hand therapy and wrist and hand pain treatments. Set up an appointment with the experienced team at Mid-America Orthopedics Wichita today. You can email us directly using the contact form on our website, or call us at (316) 630-9300.