Occupational therapy for people with chronic disease

The goal of occupational therapy is to help people live as independently as possible. Occupational therapists use work, self-care, and recreational activities to increase the flexibility and independent function of people with rheumatoid arthritis and other long-lasting conditions. Occupational therapy can include:

  • Assistance and training in performing activities such as dressing, cooking, and eating.
  • Physical exercises to increase good posture and joint motion, as well as overall strength and flexibility. For example, people with hand and wrist stiffness may be taught to exercise those joints right after doing the dishes, while the joints are warm and looser.
  • Evaluation of your daily living needs and assessment of your home and work environments, with recommendations for changes in those environments that will help you continue your activities.
  • Assessment and training in the use of assistive devices, such as special key holders if hands are stiff, computer-aided adaptive equipment, and wheelchairs.
  • Fitting splints for the hands.
  • The teaching of specific hand stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Guidance for family members and caregivers.

Occupational therapists help people with arthritis or other chronic pain conditions to protect their joints and conserve energy while developing a range of motion and strength that will help them maintain joint function. For example, occupational therapists can teach techniques to avoid applying excessive force on non–weight-bearing joints and to avoid unnecessary impacts on weight-bearing joints.1

Citations

  1. Genovese MC, Harris ED Jr (2005). Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In ED Harris Jr et al., eds., Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1079–1099. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.

Last Updated: August 18, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology

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