Q&A with Occupational Therapy

Tablet with the text Occupational Therapy on the display

Erin Culross, occupational therapist at Milford Regional Medical Center Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine

Q: What is Occupational Therapy?

A: In the simplest terms, occupational therapy is a field in which a skilled rehabilitation professional assists in returning a person with a health condition back to the activities they want and need to do.

Q: How does occupational therapy differ from physical therapy?

A: While they seem similar they have very distinct differences and fields of expertise. Physical therapy is the physical rehabilitation of people recovering from injuries or disease. The goal is to restore mobility and also teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition for long term health. Occupational therapy also considers the physical aspect of rehabilitation and motion but is focused primarily on enabling the patient to engage in meaningful activities of daily life. These professionals are dedicated to assisting patients in the long term through therapeutic adaptations and modifications to their environments.

Q: Who benefits from Occupational Therapy?

A: Whether due to a condition, accident, injury or disease, occupational therapy helps those that have difficulty completing daily activities or tasks. The focus is on things you need and want to do—your goals, activities and independence. An occupational therapist can help you live life to its fullest no matter your health condition, disability or risk factor.

Q: Can you give us an example of a patient outcome that significantly improved the patient’s daily life?

A: I had to opportunity to work with a woman that had metastatic breast cancer. One of her tumors was in her axilla of her dominant arm and caused a paralysis of the nerves of the brachial plexis. She presented with wrist drop, inability to open her finger and was unable to extend her elbow. As she was getting radiation to the tumor, we fabricated a special wrist splint to allow her to use her hand, then as the tumor shrunk and the nerve started to regenerate, we worked on strengthening those muscle groups that had been affected. In the end, she regained full use of her hand and was able to ride her bike again which made her very happy.

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