Empowering Healing: A Comprehensive Guide to Occupational Therapy

posted on Friday, April 26, 2024

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help enable patients to live life to the fullest. They incorporate function into rehabilitation focusing on the things you need and want to do in your day-to-day life. Meaningful activities may range from the things you have to do to take care of yourself to working, attending school, or providing care for others. An individualized care plan is developed and carried out as a team comprised of the patient, therapist, and caregiver or family for an all-inclusive patient experience. Spencer Hospital Occupational Therapists serve various service areas including inpatient, outpatient, home health care, and inpatient behavioral health group.   

Hand Therapy 

As the warmer weather approaches, we begin engaging in more outdoor activities that use our arms and hands such as bicycling, motorcycle riding, water skiing, gardening, and grilling, along with sports like baseball and softball.  Amid our summer fun, injuries occur and ignored irritations flare up.  So, how do you know when it is time to seek medical advice or if it will “go away on its own?” 

When do I seek medical advice?

These are some common finger injuries that should be medically treated and some of their causes

  • Finger Dislocations – These most frequently occur from sports or falls when the finger is bent, twisted, or pushed backwards forcefully. The dislocation can be in one or more of the four directions: right, left, to the palm, or back of the hand.
  • Collateral Ligament Injuries – Develops after a forceful injury to the knuckle of the thumb or finger in the opposite direction causing a sprain or strain. This occurs from a fall, dislocation, or jamming of the joint. The finger will feel unstable, painful, and weak because the collateral (side) ligaments are support structures for the finger/thumb. 
  • Boutonniere Deformity – When the middle knuckle of the finger is bent upwards and cannot be straightened without help.  This occurs from a jammed/dislocated finger or a cut on the finger that also cut the extensor tendon that was left untreated.   The finger joint becomes stiff and unable to straighten or move.
  • Mallet Finger – When this occurs, the fingertip of the finger by the fingernail is bent downwards and cannot be lifted by that finger without help. This often occurs when a ball hits the tip of the finger, and the finger bends forcefully or pulling the fitted sheets forcefully over the mattress corners while making the bed and the finger feels “jammed.”  This deformity can worsen into other complications if left untreated.   

What can a Certified Hand Therapist do for me?  

  • “Working with a knowledgeable hand therapist can make the difference between success and failure in complex hand surgical cases. The therapist extends the continuum of our care, as well as functioning as coach and trainer for our patients.” - MaryBeth Ezaki, MD, Past President of American Society for Surgery of the Hand
  • Specialized exercises are taught to help you regain motion, prevent stiffness, reduce swelling, increase strength, and improve functional use of your injured finger/hand/arm.
  • Custom orthosis fabricated may occur to position your finger, hand, wrist, or arm in the optimal placement for healing. 
  • Education on your injury, timeframe for healing, modification of tasks/activities, difficulties with sensation in the finger/hand, and possibly wound care/dressing changes if needed 

Lymphedema Therapy 

Lymphedema . . . What is that?

Definition: Abnormal swelling in your arm, leg, torso that occurs after an injury or surgery that has been present for at least 6 months or more and does not go away. 

Why Does This Occur?

The abnormal swelling occurs frequently after injury/insult to the cells in the body such as surgery or traumatic injury, radiation treatment for cancer, as well as removal of lymph nodes or a BMI >30. 

Early Detection Signs 

  • Arm, leg, neck, torso does not “feel” right; Sense of heaviness 
  • Swelling:  worse at the end of the day in the arm or leg 
  • Swelling:  worse upon awakening in the head/neck 
  • Decreased movement in the arm, leg, face, or torso 
  • Swelling that forms a dimple in the arm/leg after being pressed 

How long will Lymphedema last?

The abnormal swelling from lymphedema is something that requires lifelong management. 

What can be done about it?

Spencer Hospital has three therapists with specialized training for Lymphedema Therapy where they teach people about their condition and how to help manage increased girth. Some of the treatment techniques are through the utilization of a specialized soft tissue technique done by the therapists who then teach the patient and caregivers how to perform the soft tissue work at home.  The patients are instructed in the use of wraps, compression garments, and possibly a lymphedema pump.   

Pediatric Occupational Therapy 

Whether it is fine motor, sensory processing, or developmental milestones, pediatric occupational therapists are here to support every step of a child's unique journey. Our pediatric occupational therapy team works with infants, toddlers, school aged children, and adolescents to address a variety of needs. 

Common area of focus include, amongst others: 

  • Fine Motor Skills 
  • Gross Motor Skills 
  • Self-Care Skills 
  • Play Skills 
  • Visual Motor Skills 
  • Emotional Regulation Skills 
  • Feeding skills 
  • Sensory Processing Skills 
  • Social Skills 
  • Life Skills 

Common diagnoses seen by our pediatric OTs include: 

  • Developmental Delay 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • Down Syndrome 
  • Cerebral Palsy 
  • Sensory Processing Disorders 
  • Emotional Regulation Difficulties 
  • ADHD and ODD 
  • Congenital or Birth Defects 

Spencer Hospital offers comprehensive pediatric rehabilitation therapy. Our occupational therapy team works alongside physical therapy and speech language pathology for the entire patient experience. 

If you or your loved one would benefit from Occupational Therapy or have additional questions, please contact the Spencer Hospital Occupational Therapy Department at 712-264-6189.  

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