Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy Can Help You Get Back to Life

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If you experience an illness, injury, surgery or disability, rehabilitation medicine can help you recover, regain independence and get back to life. There are three major types of rehab: speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe one type of therapy or a combination of the three. Let’s explore each type in more detail.

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapy assesses and treats speech disorders and communication problems and helps pediatric and adult patients learn to communicate more effectively. But that is not all speech therapy provides.

“Speech therapy goes far beyond language,” said Becky Piccolo, OTR/L, Director of Rehabilitation and Occupational Health at Penn Highlands Elk. “Speech therapy can help patients who have trouble swallowing because of stroke, esophageal cancer or acid reflux disease. It can also help restore cognitive abilities in patients who have suffered a stroke or a concussion.”

Speech therapy for adults is helpful for patients who have experienced:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Stroke
  • Cognitive and communication disorders
  • Aphasia
  • Autism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Language and voice disorders
  • Swallowing disorders

In children, speech therapy provides early intervention for developmental delays or speech and language difficulties.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy uses exercise and activities to help restore strength and movement and condition muscles. It is often used along with other treatments, such as medication or surgery, or you may choose to have physical therapy in place of other treatments.

Your physician may refer you to physical therapy for:

  • Sports injuries, such as concussion, rotator cuff tears and stress fractures
  • Chronic or acute pain
  • Neurological conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease
  • Women’s health issues, such as urinary incontinence
  • Chronic swelling from surgery or conditions such as cancer
  • Overuse injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis

How long it will take to see improvement in your condition depends on your injury or condition, as well as your commitment to performing the exercises prescribed by your physical therapist.

“You may only need a few appointments to learn some exercises in order to prevent an injury, or you may need daily intensive physical therapy to regain skills after a major surgery or illness,” said Ms. Piccolo.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy helps people of all ages affected by illness, injury or surgery to address their deficits and be able to perform functions of daily living and working. Occupational therapy also plays an important role in workplace disability.

The goal of occupational therapy is to help patients be as independent as possible. Occupational therapists can help reduce or resolve a variety of functional deficits that limit a patient’s independence, work and leisure activities.

Occupational therapy may be recommended by your physician if you have experienced:

  • Work-related injuries
  • Stroke- or heart attack-induced disability
  • Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease or other serious disorder
  • Birth injuries, learning problems or developmental disabilities
  • Burns, spinal cord injuries and amputations
  • Broken bones or other injuries from sports, falls or accidents
  • Chronic swelling from surgery or conditions such as cancer

The Rehabilitation Center of Penn Highlands Healthcare offers several types of rehabilitation therapy, including inpatient and outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. With more than 25 locations throughout Pennsylvania, you can easily find an outpatient physical therapy location close to home. To learn more, visit