Occupational Therapy 101

Occupational Therapy near St. Louis, Missouri

Occupational Therapy (OT) Month designated to recognize the important role that occupational therapy plays in promoting health and well-being, so we are exploring a few of the many facets of this dynamic profession. Axes Physical Therapy is celebrating Occupational Therapy Month, and we are honored to share insights from three of our passionate occupational therapists: Mackenzie Auten, Megan Mason, and Haley Finnegan. From working with individuals to improve their daily activities and independence, to supporting communities in promoting healthy living, occupational therapy has a profound impact on the lives of people of all ages and abilities.

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)? 

Occupational therapy helps promote and maintain the ability to participate in everyday activities, also known as your daily occupations. This includes any meaningful activity that a person wants to accomplish, including all the activities required to take care of yourself and your family, working, going to school, playing a sport, and many more (AOTA, 2023).  

Where can OT’s work? 

You can find occupational therapy services in nearly any place individuals may need assistance or guidance in participating in meaningful daily activities. This may include a client’s home, hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, primary care offices, schools, and many other locations (AOTA, 2023). Occupational therapy practitioners may also work and specialize in hand therapy, driving and community mobility, assistive technology, aquatic therapy, equine assisted therapy, autism, brain injuries, lymphedema, feeding/eating/swallowing, mental health, vision, and many others.  

What is OT in an outpatient hand therapy setting? 

Hand therapy is a specialty setting where both occupational therapists and physical therapists with extensive training treat injuries and conditions of the upper extremity (shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand). Hand therapy in an outpatient setting, such as Axes Physical Therapy, uses a variety of therapeutic interventions to help our patients return to their most valued occupations and highest level of function. Whether that be regaining full strength to return to your job after a traumatic hand injury, or simply learning to use assistive equipment to protect your joints after being diagnosed with arthritis. We offer services at all stages of care: pre- and post-surgical treatment, custom splinting, and management of all upper extremity injuries.  

What are common diagnoses seen by outpatient OT’s?  

Hand therapists provide care for a variety of upper extremity disorders. We commonly treat carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, arthritis, Dupuytren’s contracture, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, finger, wrist and elbow fractures, tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), sports injuries, and much, much more.  A hand therapist will help to manage your pain and swelling, wounds and scars, implement home exercise programs, and fabricate custom orthoses and splints. Our treatment sessions commonly focus on functional exercises to help regain full function of your upper extremities. OTs specialize in creatively simulating everyday activities and work tasks to ensure you have the strength, endurance, coordination, and confidence to return to the things you love. We often incorporate creative equipment into treatment sessions to help individuals achieve their goals and improve their functional abilities. This equipment can include items such as cones and hand weights for strengthening and conditioning, marbles for fine motor skills development, and other tools that promote coordination, balance, and sensory integration. By using creative equipment, occupational therapists can create engaging and dynamic treatment sessions that are tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual. You can expect loads of patient education, joint protection, energy.

What made us choose to be OT’s?

Kenzie Auten, OTR/L at Affton and Hazelwood: I had always been interested in healthcare, specifically the rehabilitation world. When I learned what occupational therapy was and all the opportunities it had to offer, I began shadowing various settings and fell in love! In all settings, OT’s get to help people get back to doing the things they love in life. While still in school, I found my passion for the outpatient hand therapy setting while working as a rehab aide. I absolutely love getting to see my patients progress through treatment and achieve goals they didn’t think were possible.

Haley Finnegan, OTR/L @ Axes in Farmington and Festus: When I was young my grandfather underwent a below the knee amputation. I spent hours attending all his therapy appointments from inpatient rehabilitation to home health and outpatient therapy. His passion in life was woodworking in which he had a workshop in his basement. Because of his therapists he was able to return to his basement and do his woodworking, which he loved so much. At a young age I was amazed at what therapy did for my grandfather and how it helped him to participate again in the activities that brought him joy. I knew then that is what I wanted to do for people as well! Fast forward to several years later, when I was in college. I broke my finger and had to go through hand therapy myself. Again, I was amazed at how my therapist helped me to regain full use of my hand and return to doing the things I loved and needed to do. I fell in love and knew I could see myself working in a hand therapy setting.

Megan Mason, OTD, OTR/L @ Axes in St. Peters: I’ve always known I wanted a career in healthcare. It wasn’t until I started job shadowing physical therapists that I learned about occupational therapy. I became drawn to how creative the occupational therapists got to be, and how much of an impact they had in their patients’ lives. So, I switched gears and turned to the OT side! I left each shadowing experience feeling fulfilled and decided to apply for OT school and have never looked back! This career challenges both the scientific and creative parts of my brain. I love building relationships with my patients and getting to help them improve their lives every day.

As occupational therapists at Axes Physical Therapy, we are passionate about empowering individuals to reach their full potential and achieve their goals. If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, we encourage you to request a free appointment with at any of our now 18 Greater St. Louis and Illinois locations today.

Our team of dedicated occupational therapists is committed to providing personalized and evidence-based care to help individuals achieve their goals and improve their quality of life.

Join us in applauding these health care heroes during Occupational Therapy Month 2023! 

12 Months of Movement Challenge from Axes Physical Therapy. Effort, Move, Finish.