By Danielle Sharpstene, OTR/L, OCI Therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month, which is a time where occupational therapists celebrate the profession and the difference it allows us to make in the lives of our patients. Occupational therapy can look different for various populations, as there are many settings that occupational therapists can provide interventions in. We can provide services for all ages, beginning with prenatal and ranging all the way to end of life care. Services can also be provided in an array of settings, from schools, hospitals, camps, outpatient clinics, and skilled nursing facilities. Occupational therapists can really do it all.

What is the difference between an occupational therapist and a physical therapist?
There are quite a few differences, but the main difference between the two professions is that occupational therapists take a more holistic approach regarding the treatment of our patients, and we believe that patient engagement in meaningful occupations is the best way to achieve patient goals. This can look different depending on what the patient wants to achieve, how old the patient is, and what the specific limiting factors of the patient are. Treatment for a 7-year-old with cerebral palsy would look very different than treatment that is provided for an 82-year-old with a distal radius fracture.

What does occupational therapy look like at the Orthopedic Center of Illinois?
It really depends on what the patient is coming in to be treated for. I specialize in hand therapy, so I only treat patients with conditions affecting the arms, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and occasionally shoulder injuries. Because the different conditions would require different interventions, each therapy session is truly unique to the individual. Depending on the injury, it may be treated with therapeutic exercises, including stretches, range of motion exercises, isometrics, and weighted exercises when appropriate. Therapeutic activities could also include patient participation in meaningful activities of choice and/or functional tasks that one would do every day, but currently have difficulty performing due to the injury they are experiencing. Modalities are often applied including paraffin wax, ultrasound massage, electrical stimulation and heat/ice packs. When indicated, there is also application of KT taping for pain relief and edema management.

The entire goal of occupational therapy is to facilitate the patient to return to enjoyable, meaningful activities in daily life and improve their quality of life by doing so. Patients looking to participate in occupational therapy at the Orthopedic Center of Illinois should expect to have fun with the process.