Occupational Therapy Month – Busting Common OT Myths
by Heidi Blackie, Occupational Therapist / Certified Hand Therapist
Occupational therapy is often misunderstood. In fact, many people don’t know how OT can help you with the activities you do every day. Here are some of the biggest myths about OT.
Myth #1: Occupational Therapy is for workplace injuries
This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to Occupational Therapy (OT). While I do treat some common workplace issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries, and pain from poor ergonomics, there is far more to OT than that.
Put simply, occupational therapy addresses the pain that makes your daily tasks more challenging. Work might be part of this, but it also includes:
- recreational activities
- taking care of your family
Occupational therapists want to help you regain function to the level you had before you were injured. In addition to treating the injury, I teach patients new or adaptive methods for performing activities that aggravate the injury. My area of focus is the hands and upper extremities. That means I might show someone a different way of holding a pen to be more comfortable as part of their OT.
Myth #2: I need to have an injury to go to OT
As an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist, I help anyone who has limited function in their hands or upper extremities. This could be from an injury but could also include stroke, arthritis, amputation, surgery, or just loss of strength.
If someone won’t be able to regain their former function in their hand or arm, I help them find new ways of doing routine activities. This sometimes involves modifying their environment and the tools or devices they use regularly.
If the pain is interfering with a patient’s job, I might help them improve the ergonomics of their workstation or look to see what tasks could be delegated to others.
We want to help keep people as independent as possible and going through their day with less pain.
Myth #3: Over-the-counter splints will help with my hand or wrist pain
Over-the-counter splints might work well for some types of pain but can actually make some issues worse. For example, commercially available wrist splints typically keep wrists at 40 degrees of extension. For carpal tunnel syndrome or some cases of thumb pain, the wrist needs to be straighter and a custom splint could provide greater relief. I create custom splints for my patients when necessary to keep their joints positioned optimally to allow the joint or injured tissue to rest.
Myth #4: If I tell my doctor I have hand pain, they’ll recommend surgery
There are numerous ways to conservatively treat hand or wrist pain before considering surgery. Occupational therapy is one way that can help you regain strength and function and experience less pain.
Are you experiencing pain when you perform routine tasks? Are tasks that once seemed effortless more challenging to do now? Come in for an OT evaluation to see if occupational therapy could help you.