According to the The National Safety Council, the U.S. experienced 14.3 million injuries in 2019 alone. Unfortunately, many of us will suffer from an injury that seriously affects our health at some point in our lives. Others of us may have to cope with the impacts of long-term illness.
Enduring a setback, even a permanent one, to some of your physical abilities doesn't always have to mean you’ll have to live with insurmountable adverse effects. Occupational therapists can perform a range of assessments and treatments to help you get back to your best. They will design an individualized plan that provides a range of occupational therapy exercises to strengthen your body and teach you new methods of performing daily tasks.
How do you know if working with an occupational therapist can help you?
Let's have a look at what an occupational therapist does, common conditions they treat in a rehab facility, and the benefits of using therapy exercises.
The Role of Occupational Therapy in Physical Rehabilitation
Occupational therapists are trained professionals who take a holistic approach to help patients do the things they need to through daily therapeutic exercises. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, services typically include:
- an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals
- customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals
- and an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan. The role of occupational therapy in physical rehabilitation involves assessing the patient's environment and equipping them with assistive devices. The exercises play a vital part in helping patients use devices effectively.
Combined, these strategies provide powerful techniques to help patients manage their daily activities, even if they suffer a long-term physical impairment. In particular, occupational therapy can greatly benefit those coping with symptoms from the conditions listed below.
Neurological issues are most often associated with having a stroke, suffering a spinal cord injury, or experiencing a traumatic brain injury. Any of these could result in a loss of independence, physical disability, and mental deterioration. For example, if a patient has lost movement in one side of their body, they may struggle to perform simple tasks such as dressing themselves or showering. This can lead to feeling fatigued as they expend extra effort, resulting in a lack of motivation when they cannot achieve their goals.
They may also have difficulty controlling their movements or walking. Other challenges that come with these types of issues include a propensity to drop glasses or plates.
However, occupational therapy exercises help these patients make small but steady steps toward realistic goals, giving them back independence. Seeing what they can achieve can have a positive effect on their mental health and physical wellbeing.
Occupational therapists will test mobility levels and provide activities that promote healing and strength gains. Exercises may involve the use of resistance bands or improving balance and coordination through yoga or Pilates.
Workplace and Orthopedic Injuries
It's common for people to suffer injuries related to jobs that involve lifting, carrying, reaching, or pushing and pulling. These impact injuries may occur because of wear and tear due to repetitive movements over time. Patients often seek therapy for joint dislocations, hernias, sprains, and rotator cuff tears.
Without a coordinated rehabilitation program, employees could find themselves off work for a long time and may even have to give up their job altogether.
In these cases, the occupational role in physical disability can be the most important factor in recovery. Participating in comprehensive occupational therapy exercise programs can limit, and in some cases, reverse the effects of the damage.
To improve a patient's range of motion, an occupational therapist can introduce games such as tossing a ball or passing a weighted object to a nearby partner. It's essential a patient learns these exercises under strict supervision to avoid overextending themselves and making the problem worse. When the occupational therapist is satisfied with a patient's progress, they will recommend exercises to perform at home to maintain a high level of functionality.
Severe Accident Injuries
Following a traumatic event such as a car crash, patients may find they suffer from significant physical limitations. For example, damage to leg muscles or joints can leave a patient unable to walk or move freely around their home. To help a patient get back to living life to the fullest, there is an urgent need for occupational therapy in physical rehabilitation plans.
Trained professionals can identify where the weaknesses lie and develop a tailored exercise regimen to regain as much functional ability as possible. By engaging in the right occupational therapy exercises, patients can learn to retrain their muscles, getting back on their feet safely. An occupational therapist will continually assess the patient's progress, adapting the recovery plan as needs change.
In these situations, you may find it is best to receive inpatient care at a specialized facility so they can work with their therapist seven days a week. Intensive, acute therapy can expedite recovery, which can be excellent for both mental and physical health.
Hand and Upper Extremity Injuries
Though there are many causes for these conditions, people easily suffer hand and upper extremity issues when playing sports. These injuries often include tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, or flexor tendonitis. You may also suffer a hand injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome from performing repetitive actions.
In these situations, occupational therapy exercises can help you recover and learn new movements to take the strain from the affected muscles and joints. If you have lost fine motor skills, an occupational therapist may recommend activities like threading beads onto a string. To improve gross motor movements in the upper extremities, your occupational therapist may recommend performing wall push-ups or holding a ball over your head for as long as possible.
Again, the key factor is continuous assessment and supervision to ensure proper technique and maximum movement development.
According to a study in Science Daily, approximately one in four Americans suffer from chronic pain, impacting sleep quality, physical activities, and the ability to work. An occupational therapist can help reduce pain symptoms by teaching patients muscle relaxation techniques and retraining muscle groups. Occupational therapy exercises address how incorrect movement of muscle groups often contributes to increased pain.
Following treatment at the rehab clinic, an occupational therapist provides a home exercise program that aims to help the patient enjoy their daily activities without feeling discomfort.
Help is Available
When you or your loved one is dealing with the debilitating symptoms of an injury or chronic disease, the expert team of occupational therapists at Rehab Select can help, with both inpatient and outpatient treatment.
Our specialists work closely with you to understand your current abilities and your future needs. With their guidance and supervision, you could greatly improve your physical skills, boosting your mental health and quality of life. To find out how we can help you, contact us or schedule a tour today.