If you're an arthritis sufferer, occupational therapy is an important part of managing your symptoms. This is as true for the person newly diagnosed with arthritis as it is for those in its more advanced stages. That's because occupational therapy can help you learn how to minimize the impact of arthritis symptoms on your quality of life, giving you the tools you need to stay healthy and active and live life to the fullest. If you will be seeing an occupational therapist, here are 3 tips that can help you make the most of the experience.
1. Prepare a list for your first appointment
Getting the most out of occupational therapy means giving your therapist a thorough understanding of your individual needs. Spend some time working up a list of the activities you want and need to do every day—both at home and at work. Make note of the activities on that list that are difficult or painful for you, including ones that you're still performing and any that you may have given up due to arthritis. With that information, your therapist can formulate an effective treatment plan that works to address the practical problems your arthritis symptoms present in your everyday life.
2. Be open to changing the way you do things
Your occupational therapist can help you learn how to work around your symptoms to make it easier to complete daily tasks. Therapy can also show you how to reduce strain on your affected joints as you perform those tasks, which can ease symptoms like pain and stiffness and help prevent further joint damage. However, making the most of these aspects of occupational therapy requires that you be open to learning new ways of doing things, changing your daily routines and even, in many cases, accepting the need for and learning to use adaptive equipment.
3. Be ready to make lifestyle changes for better arthritis management
Occupational therapy will also work towards making beneficial changes in your lifestyle, which can help increase your energy and endurance; decrease pain and inflammation; improve joint strength, flexibility, and function; and aid in addressing the emotional effects of arthritis. Lifestyle changes that your occupational therapist may recommend include therapeutic exercises and activities, dietary changes, an emphasis on healthy sleep patterns, a plan for pacing yourself as you move through your daily activities to avoid overuse of affected joints or exhaustion, and in many cases, modifications to the home or workplace environment for increased independence and/or safety.
The basic idea to keep in mind as you begin occupational therapy is that its chief goal is to teach you the self-management skills you need to live better with arthritis. For most people, that means making a lot of changes, adjusting to new routines and practices geared towards preserving joint health and function as well as overall health and well-being. While these changes may seem awkward at first and adjusting to them will be hard work, sticking it out until you've mastered the techniques your therapist recommends is sure to pay off in the long run, helping you minimize the toll that arthritis takes on your day-to-day quality of life.