5 things you should know about occupational therapy


April is Occupational Therapy Month. Here are five things you should know about OT and its practitioners:


What is OT?

Occupational therapy “helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities,” according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). “Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent – or live better with – injury, illness or disability.”


What does OT treat?

Patients with these conditions are among those who can benefit from occupational therapy, according to AOTA:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amputation
  • Arthritis
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic pain
  • Delayed development
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hand injuries
  • Hip fractures or replacement
  • Learning and mental disabilities
  • Mood disorders
  • Musculoskeletal trauma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Repetitive motion disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stroke
  • Substance abuse
  • Sensory dysfunction
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury


OT benefits more than the patient

It’s “a great career choice because of the opportunities it provides the occupational therapist to impact the lives of their clients on so many varied levels,” said Christina Allen, an OT for St. Elizabeth Healthcare.  “In occupational therapy, you take a look at the whole person and create goals and strategies to allow your client to increase their functional independence in the specific roles that define their existence.”


What’s new in OT?

Constraint-induced therapy (CIT) shows promise for traumatic brain injury and stroke patients, Allen said. In CIT, the uninvolved upper extremity is constrained in a sling or similar device.

“The person is forced to use the involved upper extremity, which in turn ‘retrains’ the brain and creates new pathways for motor control, thus improving the functional use of the involved upper extremity,” Allen said.


The last word

“The OT can have a  positive influence  in the lives of their patients, by increasing their functional independence  as they  live life,” Allen said.  “And the career opportunities span across many life stages, from early development to geriatric care.”