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Occupational Therapy for People With Chronic Disease

Topic Overview

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 who have rheumatoid arthritis and other long-lasting conditions. Occupational therapy can include:

  • Assistance and training in doing 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 who have 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 hand-strengthening exercises.
  • Guidance for family members and caregivers.

Occupational therapists help people who have 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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
Last Revised June 5, 2012

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