by Ginny Rieger
I have been an occupational therapist for 20 years, and I might have explained what it is I do about 9 million times. I always think we are the least understood and best kept secret in the healthcare industry! But what exactly is occupational therapy?
I think of therapy as a continuum. On one end of the spectrum, we have physical therapy. Most people know what physical therapy is, and many people have had PT in their lives to regain motion and strength after an injury or surgery. On the other end of the spectrum, we have speech therapy. Many people know that speech therapy works with thinking and language skills, as well as eating and swallowing. In all that space between physical therapy and speech therapy lies occupational therapy.
OT is therapy for life
OT defines “occupation” as anything that takes time that a person wants or needs to do. Occupations can be very simple to very complex; putting on your socks is an occupation, and so is doing your taxes. When a person has an injury, health condition, or a condition that interferes with performing these occupations, that is when OT gets to work!
If you come into my clinic with an injury or condition that is limiting your ability to care for your child, take care of yourself, and drive your car, or work, rest assured that I am not just looking at your range of motion. We are going to talk about how this injury happened, any underlying causes, your lifestyle, your posture, your responsibilities, your desires and your frustrations. You will be educated on what is going on, factors that I see contributing to what we have, and you will be part of the plan to improve the situation. We will look at your habits, your workstation, your home situation and investigate how you do what you do. Stepping back and taking a holistic approach allows us to really see and make changes to things in your life that have contributed to this condition. OT is more than therapy for your shoulder or hand; OT is therapy for your LIFE.
April is National Occupational Therapy Month, and I am thrilled to continue to work in such a challenging, rewarding, and important field. I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up each morning and go to work and impact the lives of my patients, their families, and my community. Here is to the next 20 years!
If you are wondering if OT could be helpful for you, here is a quick test:
- Are you limited in what you want and need to do by physical or cognitive issues?
- Do you want to improve?
If the answer to either of these are yes, get thee to the OT! 🙂