Occupational Therapy (OT) 101

Occupational therapy (OT) is one of the many services offered at INI. Since OT isn’t often as widely understood as physical therapy (PT) how do you know if you should receive OT services?

If you experience any of the following, you might benefit from OT services:

  • You require assistance for everyday activities, such as dressing, feeding, bathing, transfers, or moving around in bed
  • You need equipment, such as a bath chair, transfer equipment, or a bedside commode
  • You want to trial therapy equipment, such as an FES cycle or a hand-held electrical stimulation unit
  • You have limited strength in your arms and/or trunk
  • You have limited range of motion in your arms or trunk
  • It’s difficult to use your hands for every-day activities
  • You have pain in your shoulders or arms
  • Your balance is impaired
  • You need new splints for your hands and/or arms

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapists “help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations)”.   Our occupational therapists at INI help people achieve these goals in two ways: 1. It is important to work towards independence using the current level of strength and function. 2. Occupational therapists provide intensive therapy to promote recovery of the nervous system. At INI, both physical and occupational therapists use the principles of Activity-Based Restoration Therapy (ABRT) to promote nervous system recovery by stimulating above and below the level of injury through intensive activity. In short, we work with what you have now, while still encouraging more recovery.

For example, if a patient came in to INI with impaired balance and poor strength in his/her hands the occupational therapist and patient would work together to determine if adaptive equipment is needed or which positions might make difficult tasks easier. Using the principles of ABRT, the occupational therapist would provide intensive therapy to promote recovery and improve strength in the hands and core muscles.

While there is always frequent collaboration with the rest of team (physicians and physical therapists), occupational therapists offer a unique perspective.  OT’s will emphasize self-care, participation in activities that the patient deems meaningful, and upper body functioning.

At INI we typically utilize two models of care for therapy: A long-term bout (or course of treatment) or a short-term bout. Both models involve intensive, activity-based therapy. Long-term bouts are designed for people who live within driving distance to INI and can come 1-3 days per week for 8-12 weeks. A short-term bout of care involves therapy 5 days per week for 1-2 weeks. Short-term bouts are appropriate for individuals who need to travel a great distance to INI, or who would like an intensive “boost” of therapy. At the end of each bout of care, whether long-term or short, your therapists create a personalized home-based program tailored to your specific needs and can assist you through the process of getting any necessary equipment in your home. Neurological recovery can be a long process. Our goal is to help you incorporate the activities and principles you learn in therapy into your everyday life so you can continue your recovery at home. It is important to come back on the schedule that your therapists and physician recommend in order to participate in further therapy and update your home program.

If you think you might benefit from OT services, contact our office manager, Gloria, to discuss scheduling an appointment.


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