occupational therapy

Is occupational therapy just for work-related incidents?

While occupational therapy may imply that it’s related to work, it’s actually a treatment for any illness, injury or disability that makes it difficult to do a normal daily task, such as work, school or household responsibilities.

“The best way to think about occupational therapy is that it helps people of all ages affected by illness, injury or disability be capable of performing functions of daily living,” said Becky Piccolo, OTR/L, Director of Rehabilitation and Occupational Health at Penn Highlands Elk.

Occupational therapy is used for work-related injuries, as well as a stroke- or heart attack-induced disability, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, learning problems, developmental disabilities, spinal cord injuries, side effects from cancer surgery and more.

The goal of occupational therapy is to help patients be as independent as possible. Occupational therapists help reduce or resolve mobility problems that limit a patient’s independence, work and leisure activities. Therapy involves physical, cognitive and psychological conditioning to complete tasks such as getting dressed, feeding oneself, bathing and driving.

For example, someone who had a stroke and is unable to move one side of their body would benefit from occupational therapy. This person’s therapy might include learning how to walk, eat and dress one-handed.

Occupational therapists may help patients learn to safely use assistive devices, such as a walker or shower seat; new ways to perform movements, such as getting out of bed; how to prevent falls and other injuries; and how to perform tasks that build muscle strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

If you experience an illness or injury that needs occupational therapy, your therapist will assess your range of motion, pain level, muscle tone and strength, sensation, balance and coordination. Through these evaluations, along with specific testing, your occupational therapist also will evaluate your ability to perform tasks specific to daily living, such as bathing and dressing. If you are a school student, your therapist will evaluate your ability to participate in school and your ability to learn age-appropriate skills. Adults that suffer an injury may need occupational therapy to assist them in regaining their ability to complete work-related tasks.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers inpatient and outpatient occupational therapy services for all ages, conditions and abilities. For outpatients, The Rehabilitation Center has locations in Brockway, Brookville, Clearfield, Curwensville, DuBois, Emporium, Huntingdon, Johnsonburg, Kane, New Bethlehem, Philipsburg, St. Marys and Tyrone. Learn more at www.phhealthcare.org/rehab.