Occupational therapists care about you and the effect that uncontrolled pain has on your life. The American Occupational Therapy Association sums up the practice well by explaining that occupational therapists ask patients what matters, not what is the matter with them.
Occupational therapy seeks to help you accomplish what you want and need, not what a medical provider thinks your recovery should entail. A skilled occupational therapist can help make everyday activities easier and more enjoyable. Patients learn how to adapt different settings to their needs so they are better equipped for life’s demands.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy helps you regain strength and confidence after an accident, injury or illness impacts your body’s function. With help from a therapist, you can learn or relearn how to handle tasks at work, home or school. This includes tasks that require physical strength as well as activities where social skills and emotional regulation are important.
Many patients have anxiety about worsening their condition or developing new symptoms. Occupational therapists understand this, which is why treatment goals often include detailed plans and coping strategies to help you thrive. Some OTs even offer home visits to help make sure you have the correct adaptive equipment for everyday tasks. Your OT may also request that you bring photos from work or school so they can assess whether your layout is appropriate for your unique needs.
Some medical treatments focus on providing all-over relief so patients can accomplish general tasks. Occupational therapy is different because it helps patients tackle specific goals for daily activities, such as eating, getting dressed, showering, and completing homework or housework.
Our knowledgeable occupational therapists don’t just want to make life better — they want to make your life better, and that means helping you accomplish things that matter to you. With help from an occupational therapist, you can resume your regular routine with less pain or discomfort.
What Are Some Reasons Patients Request Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists work with people of all ages, from babies to adults enjoying their golden years. Some patients start occupational therapy (also called OT) at an early age because they need help coping with autism or ADHD. Adults often request OT after an automobile accident, stroke or disability diagnosis. Occupational therapy is also a popular treatment for elderly adults who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or arthritic conditions.
Simply put, patients request OT because they want to improve their quality of life. Here are some reasons that patients or their caretakers consider a treatment plan that includes occupational therapy:
- They have sensory issues or a condition such as sensory processing disorder or autism
- They have a physical, social or emotional disability that impacts everyday life
- They are struggling with regular tasks after an accident, injury or illness
- Aging has resulted in reduced function or movement
Patients often invite caretakers or family members to OT sessions so that they may learn how to effectively assist the patient with difficult activities.
How Can Occupational Therapy Benefit You?
Occupational therapy can help you get back to doing the activities that you love. With help from a skilled therapist, you can practice ways to maintain your home, perform work, socialize with loved ones or care for family members and pets. Over time, you may notice that daily activities cause less pain and frustration when you follow the goals established by your occupational therapy practitioner.
If goals ever fail to meet your needs, let your therapist know. The OT specialist can adjust or remove goals so that your treatment plan always meets your expectations. Remember, a therapist’s goal is to help you live your best life, not offer unwanted advice about workarounds and adaptations that don’t interest you.
What Are Some Activities Patients Do During Occupational Therapy?
Therapeutic activities are always customized to the needs and desires of each patient. Your occupational therapist will help you develop treatment goals based on your daily life and the areas where you struggle. This may include any of the following tasks:
- Bathing, brushing hair and teeth or other forms of personal hygiene
- Meal preparation
- Caring for children or pets
- Completing school work or job-related tasks
- Washing, drying and folding clothes
- Household chores, including sweeping, mopping and yard work
- Gardening or leisure activities, such as crafting or knitting
- Shopping or other errands
- Communicating your needs with loved ones
Because your occupational therapist picks goals based on your requests, your treatment plan should include activities from your regular routine.
Let’s run through a few potential scenarios of how occupational therapy can work:
Scenario #1: OT for a patient with a brain injury
Shelly fractured her skull after she fell on an ice-covered driveway. She’s able to bathe and use the bathroom without assistance, but shopping and meal prep are very challenging. She can’t handle the bright lights and loud noises at her local supermarket, nor can she figure out which ingredients she needs for a full meal.
Shelly’s occupational therapist understands that nobody else can shop or cook for Shelly regularly, so she creates a therapy goal for grocery shopping and a therapy goal for meal prep. Shelly’s therapist recommends to Shelly that she wear sunglasses, a hat and earbuds while she shops to reduce sensory overload.
She also teaches Shelly how to make a shopping list based on simple meals for the week. For example, Shelly loves spaghetti, so her therapist tells her to write “Meal #1: Spaghetti,” followed by “whole-wheat noodles, meatless marinara sauce, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.” When possible, Shelly orders groceries online, so she can take her time shopping and avoid overstimulation.
Scenario #2: OT for a patient with autism
Tyler struggles to get through each school day. His classmates irritate him because they talk about subjects that don’t interest him, and he often injures himself because he can’t tie his shoes. He’s embarrassed about being seen in shoes with adhesive straps, so he wears tennis shoes with regular laces.
Tyler’s occupational therapist knows that Tyler wants to succeed in school, and virtual learning and homeschooling are not viable options because his mom works long hours as a nurse. To help Tyler succeed in a classroom setting, his therapist sets goals for self-regulation and shoe tying. With consent from Tyler’s mom, the occupational therapist shares these goals with Tyler’s school so everyone is on board.
At therapy, Tyler and his occupational therapist practice discussing nonpreferred subjects so Tyler can improve his social skills. Tyler learns that he can say, “I need some alone time right now,” instead of yelling at a classmate when he doesn’t feel like eating lunch with him. Tyler also practices tying his shoes, and his therapist recommends wearing sandals, boots or slip-on shoes without adhesive straps while he works on learning how to secure his sneakers.
How Should I Choose an Occupational Therapist?
When searching for an occupational therapist, make sure you choose a provider who is licensed to practice in your state. You can confirm an OT meets this requirement by contacting the Occupational Therapy Licensing Board or Agency in your state. You may also want an occupational therapist who specializes in your condition, such as an OT who primarily works with children who need accommodations or elderly patients with dementia.
At NorthEast Spine and Sports Medicine, all of our occupational therapists are licensed and ready to treat New Jersey patients. We’re also happy to accommodate special requests when possible, such as if you prefer a male or female practitioner. We can help you find an in-network provider who participates in your insurance plan at one of our offices or develop a payment plan for uncovered services.
Learn More about Occupational Therapy at Our New Jersey Offices
Chronic pain, physical or emotional disabilities or even the normal effects of aging can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. Our compassionate occupational therapists understand the challenges many patients face, and they’re here to help. Whether you struggle with brushing your teeth or need help getting through each workday, we’re here for you.
Reach out to NorthEast Spine and Sports Medicine today to learn more about how occupational therapy can benefit you or a loved one. We also have numerous other services for pain management, including chiropractic care, physical therapy and acupuncture therapy. Give us a call, and we’ll set up a consultation to figure out which treatment options are best for you.