Understanding Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy consists of skilled treatment that leads to improved function in self-care areas from bathing and dressing to home management tasks. Occupational therapy is appropriate following orthopedic surgeries, neurologically impairing diagnoses and progressive disease.
Occupational therapists help in problem solving with:
- Compensatory strategies
- Adaptive equipment
- Retraining of functional skills
Treatments include the following modalities:
- Neuromuscular re-education
- Manual therapy
- Therapeutic exercise and self-care
- Home management retraining
- Safety evaluations in the home
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Hand therapy, a specialty practice area of occupational therapy, is typically concerned with treatment of orthopedic-based upper-extremity conditions to optimize the functional use of the hand and arm.
Diagnoses seen by Occupational therapists specializing in this area include:
- Fractures of the hand or arm
- Lacerations, amputations and burns
- Surgical repairs of tendons and nerves
Hand therapists also treat acquired conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Hand therapy typically addresses the bio-mechanical issues underlying upper-extremity conditions. Therapists use an activity-based and client-centered approach which identifies the participation needs of the client—what he or she wants to be able to do in the daily life that is fulfilling and meaningful—and emphasizes the performance of desired activities as the primary goal of therapy.
Incorporating "usual and customary" occupational activities into treatment and focusing goals on enabling performance of those activities provides benefits to clients including:
— Preserving roles as related to psychological well-being, through attention to detail of day-to-day functioning early in the rehabilitation process;
— Increasing motivation for therapy and more cost effective rehabilitation because clients can see a direct relationship between their occupational therapy intervention and being able to resume normal participation in their activities, and
— Making the client a partner in his/her rehabilitation. Not all intervention can or should be completed within the clinic. Consulting with the client about what he or she can and should not do outside the clinic, as well as giving "homework" assignments can address occupational goals that go beyond clinical staff time.
Occupational therapists begin intervention with a client-centered assessment. The initial evaluation focuses intervention in two ways.
— The therapist and client collaboratively set goals that reflect what the client wants and needs to do. Range of motion, strengthening, use of modalities and purposeful activities address the performance of desired life tasks.
— Activities will be chosen carefully to ensure that they are relevant to the client's priorities. Daily task participation is often used as a means of helping the client return to psychosocial or vocational well-being while waiting for their bodies to heal.
— Adaptations are made to daily activities to allow for immediate engagement. Splinting and adaptive equipment will be provided to facilitate early participation in daily activities.
The ultimate goal of therapy is to ensure that the rehabilitation process promotes healing while enabling clients to perform meaningful activities in the clinic and in their daily lives.
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