At Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, my New Jersey-based practice focuses on relieving pain and restoring function non-surgically. To get our patients the best results, we employ chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists and a licensed acupuncturist. Pain relief and function restoration are not the sole domain of one discipline or another. They often require a combination of approaches from various healthcare professionals.
Occupational therapists, or OTs, are critical to the practice of helping people regain their ability to accomplish activities of daily living. OTs are distinct from physical therapists, PTs, in that they treat patients holistically rather than focusing on regaining movement of one part of the body.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, an OT is described as, “Practitioners [who] have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.”
Occupational therapists earn master’s degrees in OT and must pass a licensing exam. How might an occupational therapist help a patient? They might help a child with disabilities participate in school and social situations. OTs also assist adults recovering from a stroke in regaining their balance and use of the side of the body affected. They might teach an elderly person a few techniques on how to remain independent, and demonstrate aids they might use, like a walker, a grab bar in the bathtub, or brighter lights to overcome visual impairment.
Our goal when patients come to us is to return them to full function. That does not happen overnight. It takes time to undo the damage wrought by three decades of bodily mistreatment and the quick-fix misguidance favored by the American medical system. In the meantime, our patients still need to live their daily lives. Occupational therapists can help them to accomplish such simple tasks as putting on their socks and shoes, and using the toilet.
Typically, an OT first evaluates a patient and determines their goals for therapy. Then they create a customized intervention plan and outcomes evaluation model to ensure those goals are being met. The occupational therapy might consist of modalities to improve balance when standing; developing compensatory actions, such as using a stool to raise the leg when putting on socks; and use of adaptive equipment, such as a long-handled shoehorn.
Most people with back issues who employ the services of an OT can expect to see permanent improvement right away. That gives us time at Oakland to address the underlying issues of the spine that cause pain and limit motion.
Since April is Occupational Therapy Month, we’d like to thank OTs everywhere for the holistic work they do to help patients overcome disability and pain without resorting to pills and surgery.