It Takes a Village Part 2 – Occupational Therapist

It Takes a Village Part 2 – Occupational Therapist

Patients with arthritis and other autoimmune patients often suffer from stiff joints often as a result of trying not to move a joint as that causes pain.  It’s the catch-22 of arthritis: The more pain you are in, the less you want to move — but the less you move, the more pain you have. Movement is exactly what your body needs to help to combat your disease.

Last month, we had a look at the role physiotherapists have to play in arthritis treatment plans in that they assist in remobilizing these joints. But physiotherapists work to correct damage that has already occurred. An occupational therapist is proactive rather than reactive. He or she can show you how to avoid joint damage in your day to day activities.

Occupational therapy can teach you how to reduce strain on your joints during daily activities. Often, we are unaware of just how many repetitive movements we carry out in a normal day. Occupational therapists can show you how to modify your home and workplace environments to reduce motions that may aggravate arthritis. They may recommend assistive devices to aid in tasks like driving, bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and certain work activities.

Occupational Therapy Techniques for Joint Protection:

These techniques will be shown to you and are easily incorporated into daily activities.

  • Controlling your weight to avoid putting extra stress on weight-bearing joints such as the back, hips, knees, and feet. Good core strength will assist with this.
  • Occupational therapists will teach you to become aware of your body position, using good posture to protect your back and the joints in your legs and feet.
  • They may suggest that whenever possible, sit down to do a job instead of standing.
  • They are likely to also advise changing position often since staying in one position for a long time tends to increase stiffness and pain.
  • Conserving energy by allowing for rest periods, both during the workday and during an activity will also be on the agenda.

Occupational Therapy and Environment Adjustment

An occupational therapist doesn’t only address you as a person but also addresses the environments where you live and work.

An occupational therapist might recommend any number of these to improve both home and work life:

  • Try to create a more flexible working arrangement. Modern technology and the difficult year we’ve had have highlighted that going into the office is not quite as necessary as we thought in order to fulfil our duties. Flexible working hours could be suggested, such as making time up on the weekend if you had a specialist’s appointment during working hours.
  • Most jobs, whether working at a desk or not, involve a certain number of repetitive motions. Repetitive stress injuries can greatly exacerbate arthritis pain. To avoid this, plan frequent breaks. Your occupational therapist can work with a physio therapist who can suggest short quick exercises that you can do to limit the impact of these repeated motions.
  • An ergonomic workstation and specialized equipment can go a long way in providing relief and reducing unnecessary strain. This can include an adjustable desk that allows you to work in different positions such as alternating between sitting and standing. An ergonomic office chair that has an adjustable seat height, seat depth and proper lumbar support will allow you to maintain good posture. Ergonomic keyboards reduce pressure within the carpal tunnel, which carries the nerves that control the hand.

Often in order to get the most benefit from these two disciplines it can be helpful to go to a practice that has both. In this way the physiotherapist and occupational therapist can work together to create a plan to help you minimize pain and alleviate it when it occurs.

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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