Occupational Therapy (OT) is an area of rehab that is focused on improving one's participation in activities of daily living (ADLs). Occupational therapy can be defined as: the use of assessment and intervention to develop, recover, or maintain the meaningful activities of individuals. Occupational therapists enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.

What is Occupational Therapy

While Basic activities of daily living (ADLs) consist of everyday tasks like dressing, bed mobility, and grooming, occupational therapy can also address Instrumental ADLs that include leisure activities (cooking, driving, cleaning, ect), sports and recreation (swimming, golf, baseball, ect) and any other meaningful activity to you. To further emphasize meaningful activities, OT takes a holistic approach that stresses the importance of both mental and physical health. At West Coast Spine, occupational therapy takes a top-down approach to these tasks that considers impairments of a condition that lead to decreased participation in activities of daily living.

Occupational therapy can be helpful for people of all ages, from helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations to providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Our occupational therapy plans are custom designed for each patient and aim to also boost self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment. Occupational therapy helps develop fine motor skills, improve eye-hand coordination and master basic life skills.

Occupational Therapy can:
  • be helpful for people of all ages, from babies and young children to adults and seniors.
  • look at how you do any kind of activity or task and then your occupational therapist will create a custom plan to improve the way you do that activity to make it easier or less painful.
  • help if you have pain, illness, injury, or a disability that makes it hard for you to do your job or schoolwork, care for yourself, move around, take part in activities, or complete household chores.
  • teach patients how to adapt and use tools, typically called assistive devices (ADs), if you need them.
  • help patients regain independence in all areas of their lives.
  • assist kids in improving their ability to complete basic tasks, which can also improve their self-esteem.
Common Diagnoses and Impairments Aided by Occupational Therapy:
  • Birth injuries or birth defects
  • Shoulder, elbow, and hand impairment
  • Knee, hip and functional mobility
  • Broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)
  • Stroke and neurorehab
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
  • Autism and ADHD for improved attention and delayed milestones
  • Cerebral Palsy for fine motor skills and delayed milestones
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Developmental delays
  • Post-surgical conditions
  • Burns
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Severe hand injuries
Physical Therapy vs Occupational Therapy

The main difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is that OT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform specific activities of daily living. While physical therapy will focus on general movement of the body, occupational therapy takes this a step further by tying range of motion and strength exercises to a functional task or skill.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy both help improve quality of life, but there are differences in the approach.

Physical therapy (PT) helps with:
  • pain
  • strength
  • joint range of motion
  • endurance
  • gross motor skills (large-muscle movements made with the arms, legs, feet, or entire body)
Occupational therapy helps with similar conditions, but with a focus on:
  • fine motor skills including small-muscle movements made with the hands, fingers, and toes such as grasping
  • visual-perceptual skills
  • cognitive or thinking skills
  • sensory-processing problems
What to Expect during an Initial Occupational Therapy Appointment

During your initial occupational therapy visit, your therapist will conduct an individualized evaluation where they will ask questions to determine your goals and what you hope to accomplish with occupational therapy. Once your therapist has a complete understanding of your goals, a unique plan routine is created to help you achieve those goals.

As part of your visit, your therapist may also:
  • Ask about your home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school) to understand how these may play a role in your treatment
  • Recommend the use of adaptive equipment and educate you in its use
  • Provide guidance and education for family members and caregivers.