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Occupational Therapy: What to Know

Occupational therapy is based on the premise that that people should live life being able to do the things they want and need to do. Occupational Therapists specialize in restoring a person’s ability to participate in the “job of life” – enjoying what you do every day. 

Occupational therapists work with a variety of injured or disabled patients across the lifespan using many therapeutic techniques to enable them to engage in activities that they find meaningful.  This may mean restoring their ability to interact with their environment by focusing on fine motor coordination and dexterity activities.  It may mean providing adaptive equipment to a patient who has suffered a stroke so that they may dress themselves independently. It may mean helping the orthopedic patient regain essential hand and upper extremity strength.  They are also specialists in upper extremity splinting for protection, mobilization and functional purposes.

Occupational therapists formulate individualized plans of care after completing a thorough evaluation. For each patient they customize interventions, or programs, that ultimately will enable them to return to their maximum level of function depending on their disability.  Common OT interventions may include:

  • Joint mobilizations
  • Soft tissue techniques
  • Therapeutic exercise prescription
  • Functional activity analysis
  • Recommendation of adaptive equipment
  • Neuromuscular re-education
  • Sensory integration
  • Custom splinting  

Occupational therapists treat patients in a variety of settings that may include: inpatient, sub-acute or out-patient hospital based programs, private practice, psychiatry, skilled nursing, school based therapy and physician owned clinics.

Here are 8 things to know about OT:

  1. Occupational therapy is an evidence-based, science-driven career and course of study.
  2. The holistic approach of occupational therapists focuses on overall wellness.
  3. OTs provide habilitation and rehabilitation services.
  4. Therapists work to identify and minimize environmental factors that might hinder patient progress.
  5. Psychological, environmental and social issues treated by occupational therapy can affect people of all ages.
  6.  Common orthopedic and overuse injuries that are treated in our clinics include:  tendonitis, carpal and cubital tunnel, fractures, amputations, crush injuries, hand reconstructions, joint replacements, sprains and strains.
  7. Supracondylar fractures are commonly experienced by children, as the result of trampoline injuries.  These injuries can be treated post immobilization to restore motion and function with the help of occupational therapy.  
  8. Occupational therapists must have a master’s degree for entry-level practice, and OT assistants must have an associate’s degree. Both must pass National Board Certification exams.  OrthoCarolina upper extremity specialists hold credentials (CHT) for advanced study and competency in hand and upper extremity rehabilitation. 

 

Find more information about occupational therapy here. Stacy Rumfelt, OTR/L, OTD, CHT, CLT contributed to this article. 

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