Occupational therapy is an evidence-based treatment deeply rooted in science. It’s a proven therapy that works in the real world. Interventions include helping people to recover and regain skills from an injury, helping children with disabilities participate in school and social arenas and helping seniors improve cognitive and physical skills. An occupational plan is all-inclusive and includes:

  • An individual evaluation to determine patient goals
  • Customized intervention activities to improve daily tasks and activities for the patient
  • An outcomes evaluation to determine if goals were met and to make changes to the plan if needed

Occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy, but there are differences. While physical therapy focuses on the patient’s ability to perform a movement of the body, occupational therapy focuses on the patient’s ability to perform daily living activities. These therapies complement each other in that one is a perfect adjunct of the other.

Hand Therapy

Hand therapy is a specialized area of occupational therapy. It focuses on treating orthopedic upper-extremity issues to optimize the functional use of the arm and hand. Typical conditions that affect the hand are lacerations, amputations, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fractures, and rheumatoid arthritis. In general, hand therapy focuses on the biomechanical issues of upper-extremity conditions. It’s a patient-centered approach that addresses the needs of the patient, such as being able to lift things, open a jar, or button a shirt.

Hand therapy interventions by an occupational therapist may include therapeutic exercises, mirror therapy, orthosis design, pain management, manual therapy, taping, ergonomics, and compression therapy. Activities for a hand injury with an occupational therapist may include working with putty, using a gripper and using dumbbells.

Benefits

The benefits of hand therapy are many:

  • Preventative, non-operative or conservative treatment
  • Management of acute or chronic pain
  • Desensitization following nerve injury or trauma
  • Sensory re-education after nerve injury
  • Design and implementation of home exercise programs to increase motion, dexterity, and/or strength
  • Customized splint fabrication for prevention or correction of injury
  • Training in the performance of daily life skills through adapted methods and equipment
  • Conditioning prior to returning to work

Overall, occupational therapy goes beyond addressing injuries.

It includes the whole person’s functional needs and implements activities to promote psychological well-being. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), in addition to dealing with an individual’s physical well-being, Occupational Therapy practitioners address psychological, social, and environmental factors that may hinder an individual’s functioning in different ways.

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