Occupational Therapy – The Profession that Lends a Helping Hand

hand therapy

Occupational Therapy (OT) began just over 100 years ago when US soldiers returned from World War I with injuries that kept them from performing daily activities. OT’s (or rehabilitation aides as they were first called) began helping soldiers return to a more normal way of life through activity-based rehabilitation. We have come a long way since then! I celebrate this month with thankfulness for those that pioneered the way for a career that I love.

What is Occupational Therapy? 

The word occupation means “any activity in which one engages”. Occupational therapy (OT) does just that. It is a form of therapy that uses activity for rehabilitation in order to address physical and mental challenges as needed in ones daily life. The therapy focus is typically in three areas of ones life including:

  • Activities of daily living (e.g eating, dressing, bathing etc)
  • Career or job specific tasks (e.g computer usage, lifting/carrying demands, tool usage) for adults OR school related activities/ play (e.g handwriting etc) for children.
  • Leisure/hobbies/sports (e.g golf, sewing, tennis etc)

What is an Occupational Therapist?

An occupational therapist provides different roles in a variety of healthcare settings. OT’s can work in hospital rehab units, skilled nursing facilities, NICU, nursing homes, home care, schools, mental health facilities, community care centers, and out-patient facilities to name a few. Depending on the setting that an OT works directly impacts the type of patients the therapist may see. However, whatever the setting, OT’s will continue to focus therapy around functional activities and look at an individual’s 3 main areas of life and set goals with the patient and/ or caregiver.

What is the role of an Occupational Therapist in an out-patient facility?

At Axes Physical Therapy, our OT’s have advanced training in the treatment of upper extremity conditions and diagnosis and are also credentialed as certified hand therapists (CHT). Our OT/CHT’s work closely with hand surgeons, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, and physical therapists. Some common injuries and conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow that are seen include, but are not limited to:

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Tendonitis
  • Nerve and tendon lacerations
  • Nerve compression (carpal tunnel/ cubital tunnel)
  • Wounds and soft tissue injury
  • Trauma/ degloving injuries
  • Amputation

OT/ CHT’s perform the following services to help manage and treat upper extremity conditions:

  • Establish and progress functional treatment programs to help individuals return to the things they love: work, leisure, and daily living activities following injury, surgery, or conditions that occur with age.
  • Instruct patients in ROM, strengthening, desensitization, edema control, scar management, and wound care to the upper extremity.
  • Perform joint mobilization techniques to the upper extremity
  • Proficient in modality usage such as heat, cold, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and iontophoresis to assist in treatment.
  • Fabricate custom splints to protect, rest, stretch involved tissue, or prevent deformity.
  • Educate regarding diagnosis and teach preventative strategies.
  • Teach the use of adaptive equipment or compensatory techniques following injury or condition for independent living.
  • Customize home programs

Axes Physical Therapy provides free screenings. For more information or to schedule your free injury screening with a certified hand therapist, schedule an appointment at axespt.com.

About the Author: Julie Freiner, OTR/L, CHT is a graduate in Occupational Therapy from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1994. She received her prestigious certification as a hand therapist in 2000. Since then, Julie has worked in several outpatient settings managing acute and chronic injuries to the hand, wrist and elbow.