Here's how hand therapists specialise on the rehabilitation of the upper limb

Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov.

Hand therapists enable patients to regain as much hand function as possible, often teaching them how to perform certain actions again, especially if their injury is very serious and they have lost part of their fingers.

Each patient is briefly assessed and measured. The patient’s hand is gently massaged and specific exercises to improve hand function are practiced. If necessary splints are made to support the hand or improve its function.

Creativity and biomechanics are required for the making of these splints. The hand is a very special organ which is easily injured, but can improve with the right care. The exact degree that a joint can move is measured before and after therapy, and this motivates patients to do even more work at home. 

Hand therapists work with a large variety of people. Their patients are usually very grateful when hand function is improved, and they often become good friends. It is sometimes necessary for hand therapists to travel abroad to attend congresses and courses, where they get to know people from all over the world who share their passion. Occupational therapy covers a large field, and hand therapists are easily able to find work locally and internationally.

Watch the video to learn more:

Personal requirements

  • Enjoy helping people
  • Emotional stability
  • Patience and perseverance
  • Have empathy and a kind heart
  • Good health and physical stamina
  • Creative and have original ideas for problem-solving
  • Practical and have manual dexterity

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects compulsory subjects: MathematicsPhysical Science recommended subjects: Life Sciences 


  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to study

Degree: BOccupational Therapy or BSc (Occupational Therapy) - UKZN, US, UL, UP, UCT, UFS, Wits. The duration of the course is 4 years.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements.

This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board of Occupational Therapy, Medical Orthotics, Prosthetics & Arts Therapy.


  • General hospitals and clinics
  • Special schools for physically disabled children
  • Homes for the aged
  • Specialised units such as workmen’s rehabilitation units
  • Self-employment, in own private practice

Getting started

  • Make appointments to talk to practising hand therapists and ask to observe them at work
  • Try to get a vacation job working with an hand therapist - even if unpaid

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.