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What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on the skills people need for daily activities, such as working, dressing, eating, shopping and getting around.

OT may be recommended when an illness, injury or medical condition affects a person's physical or mental abilities. The goals of therapy may include regaining physical skills after injury, maintaining these skills despite chronic disease or learning to adapt to permanent disability.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), OT can help people with:

  • Work injuries, such as back problems or repetitive stress injuries.
  • Lasting side effects from a heart attack or stroke.
  • Arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions.
  • Birth injuries, learning problems or other obstacles to normal development.
  • Burns, spinal cord injuries or amputations.
  • Injuries from falls, sports or accidents.
  • Mental or behavioral problems such as Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia.

OT services may include:

  • Customized programs to help people with daily activities.
  • Evaluating the home or workplace for safety or health hazards and suggesting changes that make the environment safer or more accessible.
  • Assessing and treating problems that affect a person's ability to be effective at work.
  • Training a person to use equipment that helps replace lost bodily functions.
  • Educating family and caretakers about safe and effective ways to care for people.
  • Teaching exercises to improve decision-making, problem-solving, memory and coordination.
  • Designing or making special equipment to help people function at home or work.
Occupational therapists work at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and private practices. OTs may also treat people at home or in the workplace.

Your healthcare provider or the AOTA can help you find an occupational therapist.

reviewed 4/30/2019

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