What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a treatment that helps people with pain, injuries, illnesses or disabilities get on with their jobs, schoolwork, household chores, and any other physical activity.
The goal of occupational therapy (OT) is to enable you to adapt. OT helps to repair a person’s physical and cognitive capabilities by helping that person recover from disabilities and injuries. Health professionals in this field are called occupational therapists.
An occupational therapist’s job is to suggest ways to improve your body movements which enables you to work with ease, play sports, take care of yourself and sometimes, stay active.
How does Occupational Therapy Help?
The method of occupational therapy may change with each patient. Patients in need of physical rehabilitation will have exercises that focus on repairing affected body parts. As a result, occupational therapists are expected to assess the situation before starting the therapy.
Eventually, occupational therapy can adapt to any patient’s emotional, physical, psychological and environmental needs. Occupational therapists can then design specialized exercises that support functions the patient needs. The following are what occupational therapy can do for you:
- Help treat work-related injuries
- Ease self-care such as bathing and dressing up.
- Participate in leisure activities
- Eat pain-free and without help
- Do laundry or cleaning within your home.
Who is an Occupational Therapist?
Occupational therapists, sometimes called OTs, are health professionals that need to be licensed and must pass a national exam before being certified to practice. After passing the national exam, OTs can practice. However, some OTs prefer to take on more training. The reason for this is to narrow their scope of occupational therapy.
It’s not uncommon to see OTs specialize in different aspects of occupational therapy. You may see OTs that specialize in hand therapy or eye health. Some OTs prefer to work with children and others specialize in older adult treatment. An OT could have assistants. These are basically called occupational therapy assistants (OTAs). Like Occupational therapists, OTAs need an associate degree to practice. They cannot create therapy plans as they are only restricted to an assistant role.
Your OT and OTA will often communicate with your doctor, psychologist, physical therapist, and other such relevant health professionals.
What do OTs do Exactly?
Occupational therapists treat people of all ages. This includes premature babies, young children, and adults of any age. The work of an OT can be summarized thus: they assess how you perform tasks or activities and then present plans that can improve your performance. Their main task to ensure a pain-free ordeal whenever you do some activities.
At your first meeting, your OT will assess all that you need. Your OT may visit your workplace to see how you perform your tasks and to suggest changes that can improve your performance. If the OT is treating a child, then he may visit the child’s school. Having difficulties doing regular household chores, your OT may visit your home. Assessing your home’s current setup, he may suggest you move some furniture or advise you to get assistive devices like canes and grabbers.
After assessing your current setup, your OT will come up with a therapy plan. Your OT will set goals needed to treat your disability or limits. Depending on your situation, your OT may be responsible for adapting your movements, improving your hand-eye coordination, enhancing your motor skills or finding new innovative ways to do your tasks. The following are the possible things that an OT might do for you:
- Prescribe assistive devices like canes and wheelchairs and show you how to use them
- Teach you how to better do regular work like tying your shoes or working on a computer.
- Organize your medications
- Treat strokes by improving body balance, building muscle strength and correcting impaired speech.
- Rearrange your home setting; for instance, organizing household tools.
- Enhance hand-eye coordination
- Improve your motor skills.
Why You Need Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy comes with a ton of benefits, some you couldn’t even imagine. We’ve compiled a list of the most important things that occupational therapy can do for you. Here they are:
- Treat Arthritis and Chronic Pain
With a few simple modifications and advice, occupational therapists can treat the occurrence of arthritis in older adults, helping them perform day-to-day tasks normally.
Arthritis is also known as ‘joint inflammation.’ An OT will first determine the type of arthritis before preferring relevant solutions. Because arthritis patients find it difficult to move without feeling pain, OTs use methods like hand-therapy to help them perform demanding jobs with ease.
- Improve Vision
When vision is impaired, people often think the worst. Fortunately, with the help of occupational therapists, some vision loss can be repaired. Like physical therapy is to the body, vision therapy involves exercising the eyes and brain to improve vision, all without surgery.
People with eye defects such as double vision, dizziness, lazy eye, strabismus, reading difficulties can benefit greatly from the intervention of OTs. An occupational therapist can determine the extent of eye damage and give the required treatment needed to correct that defect.
- Improve Cognitive Skills and Memory
As people age, brain cells begin to slowly deteriorate. This leads to forgetfulness or dementia in very severe cases. With the intervention of OT, patients can retain their memory and sharpen cognitive skills within different stages of memory loss. Occupational therapy eliminates the idea of surgery. People in later stages of memory loss can stimulate sensory nerves by doing cognitive exercises such as reading books and solving crossword puzzles.
- Increase Movement Range
The older adults get, the more rigid their range of motion gets. This could lead to pain and stiffness in joints and is caused by worn out ligaments and stiff joints. With OT, a ‘range of motion’ exercises, also called ROM, can be used to treat cases of rigid movements.
Occupational therapy also helps treat medical issues like:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injury
- Brain injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy, etc.