• The Hand Physio Clinic

Physiotherapist VS Hand Therapist: Differences and When to Choose Each

Updated: Jan 7

If you’re suffering from pain, injury, or limited mobility in the muscles and joints, life can be unbearable. Seeking professional help is essential to recovery and healing. With so many professionals available, though, it can be difficult to determine which one to visit.


Two common professionals that treat muscle and joint issues in the upper limbs are physiotherapists and hand physiotherapists. A physiotherapist can treat you if you have a problem with pain or movement. Physiotherapy could help you become more mobile and make you more comfortable.


What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy uses physical techniques to improve movement, reduce pain and stiffness, speed up the healing process and increase quality of life.

All physiotherapists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA). They must be qualified, have insurance and be continuing their education.

You can check if your physiotherapist is registered or make a complaint about a physiotherapist on the AHPRA website.

What does a physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapists diagnose and manage a broad range of conditions with the bones, muscles, cardiovascular system, nerves and other parts and systems of the body. They can help people to manage chronic diseases, give lifestyle advice, prescribe exercises and aids to help people manage better, and give advice.

When you go to see a physiotherapist, they might:

  • massage areas of your body

  • manipulate your joints

  • stretch your muscles

  • give you exercises to do

A physiotherapist will assess your condition and help you with physical problems. These might have come about because of an accident or injury, or you might have had them most of your life.

What’s the Difference Between a Physiotherapist and a Hand Therapist?


Whilst a general physiotherapist is a professional that is trained to provide manipulation, massage, education, and exercise routines to address issues in the muscles and joints throughout the body. They can help to treat pain, mobility issues, deformities, and more.


A hand physiotherapist is one who can provide the same but they are specialized in treating issues in the upper limbs. This includes the hands, elbows, wrists, and shoulders.

While both professionals can address these issues, a hand therapist has more in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the upper limbs. They are also knowledgeable in scar and wound care. This allows for a more specialized treatment plan for conditions such as:

  • Arthritis in the hands

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Trigger Finger

  • Mallet Finger

  • Breaks, burns, dislocation, and other injuries to the hand, wrist, fingers, and elbows

When to See a Hand Therapist VS a Physiotherapist


In short, any time you are experiencing pain or have incurred an injury to the upper limbs, a hand therapist is the best choice. However, sometimes, the condition or injury may cause pain in other areas of the body. If this is the case, should you still choose a hand therapist?


For issues in other parts of the body, a general physiotherapist is necessary. However, you might still need a hand therapist to specifically address your upper limbs.


The good news is that hand therapists typically work with the rest of your medical care team. Your primary physician, surgeon, occupational therapist, and even your physiotherapist will recommend seeing a hand therapist when necessary. And all parties will work together to ensure you receive the best treatment possible.

At the Hand Physio Clinic, we are dedicated to providing you with the absolute best care. We understand the importance of hand mobility and want to ensure your hands stay as healthy as possible throughout your life.


If you are suffering from an upper limb injury or pain, please contact us today. We’ll diagnose the issue and determine the best course of action to meet your specific needs.


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