Occupational Therapy: What Is It and When Do You Need It?
June 9, 2023
Patients with different medical and psychological needs have a variety of therapies available in order to help them heal. Unless you’ve used these services yourself, however, you may be unfamiliar with what they entail. One common form of treatment is occupational therapy. As specialists in this field, we want to help you discover more of what this type of care involves and why it’s used.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy helps you adapt to daily life after illness, disability or physical impairment. It begins with assessing your capacity to manage typical life activities, then creating a plan to establish, recover, or maintain your ability to complete those activities.
For example, an occupational therapist might help you navigate bathing, eating, and dressing. They may guide you through exercises that restore your ability to eat with a utensil, tie your shoes, or button a shirt. Occupational therapists can also help patients:
- Learn how to use adaptive equipment, if needed.
- Return to school, work, and hobbies.
- Prevent falls and navigate their home safely.
- Optimize their daily routines.
- Develop strategies to help with concentration and memory.
In addition, these professionals may also work with your family members and caregivers, providing coaching or training to help them better support you.
What Does the Process Entail?
While each occupational therapist may have their own unique approach, in general, therapy begins with an evaluation. This allows your therapist to understand your medical history, life experiences, and lifestyle so that they can develop an occupational profile. From there, they can create a tailored intervention plan to help you perform necessary and desired activities.
The therapy itself may then consist of recommendations and guided exercises to help you meet your goals.
When Would You Need Occupational Therapy?
People of all ages can benefit from occupational therapy, from premature babies to seniors. Anyone who struggles to complete a task may be referred to an occupational therapist to develop skills or modifications to help them manage daily activities.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some common conditions for which occupational therapy may be helpful:
- Joint injuries and replacements
- Birth injuries or defects
- Spinal cord surgeries or injuries
- Sensory processing disorders
- Broken bones and other orthopedic injuries
- Post-surgical recovery
- Developmental delays
- Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic conditions
- Impaired vision
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Mental health or behavioral issues
How Is Occupational Therapy Different from Physical Therapy?
While occupational therapists and physical therapists may treat patients with the same conditions or symptoms, there are important differences between the goals of each treatment. Physical therapy is focused on exercises to help with your strength and mobility, which could include increasing range of motion and building muscle mass. It can also help with pain management, endurance, and gross motor skills.
“Though it may also recommend in combination with physical therapy, the intention of occupational therapy is to improve your ability to perform daily activities as independently as possible,” explains Bethany Herold, Therapy Services Manager at Morgan Medical Center. It focuses instead on fine motor skills, such as grasping, as well as cognitive skills, sensory processing, and visual-perceptual skills.
If you or a loved one could benefit from occupational therapy, turn to Morgan Medical Center. Our occupational therapists are trained to help patients overcome disability, illness, and physical impairment and treat individuals with orthopedic and neurological conditions. Find out more about our therapy services online.