Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint pain, fatigue and muscle weakness. Occupational therapists are medical professionals who provide practical support to individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An occupational therapist helps people with rheumatoid arthritis manage their day-to-day life.
How Does an Occupational Therapist Help Someone With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The goal of occupational therapy (OT) is to empower the patient so he or she can expedite recovery. In addition, the occupational therapist helps patients overcome the barriers preventing them from performing certain activities.
The key to living with this autoimmune disease is learning ways to self-manage. Self-management includes the patient adopting strategies to cope with the symptoms associated with RA, as well as making the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce the physical and mental impact he or she experiences. Occupational therapists achieve this by providing their patients with strategies they can use to perform everyday tasks.
Potential occupational therapy treatments include:
- Advising and educating patients about methods they can use to reduce joint pain and inflammation.
- Educating patients about how they can protect their joints.
- Advising patients about ways they can manage their daily activities (e.g., washing, getting dressed) during times when the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are active.
- Making arrangements for devices or equipment that is designed to assist a patient with daily activities. In addition, the therapist may recommend modifications to equipment or devices to improve the patient’s ability to self-manage.
- Addressing issues related to hand function with tailored stretching and strengthening hand exercise programs.
- Providing tips on how to manage fatigue.
- Helping patients explore which professions are the best for people who have rheumatoid arthritis (e.g., positions that allow telecommuting or frequently changing positions from sitting to standing during their shift).
- Providing tips on ways to relax and deal with problems sleeping.
- Encouraging self-management, helping the patient modify or adapt activities to make them easier.
- Providing patients with referrals to groups for health and wellbeing, as well as to local exercise facilities.
People With RA Must Maintain a Satisfactory Balance
Occupational therapy provides these patients with practical support so they can empower themselves to expedite their recovery and overcome the barriers that prevent them from performing certain activities. In addition, the occupational therapist works with RA patients to assist them in making choices that maintain a satisfactory balance across various occupations. Furthermore, occupational therapists help patients manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (e.g., pain, low-energy levels) while they engage in a variety of tasks and activities.
What Are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Someone With RA?
Although OT cannot bring the mobility back to damaged joints, it can improve a patient’s rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and daily life in several ways.
Patients may find that working with an occupational therapist at Therapeutic Potentials:
- Keeps their symptoms and deformities from progressing further.
- Improves their ability to continue functioning despite the joint limitations they experience.
- Helps patients with performing activities independently and fighting fatigue.
- Patients learn how to cope with their limitations and to prioritize what is most important to them.
An Occupational Therapist Also Works With the RA Patient’s Other Medical Professionals
The occupational therapist is a member of the multidisciplinary team that provides an RA patient with the support necessary to ensure a patient’s short-term and long-term needs are recognized and addressed accordingly. Throughout the course of a patient’s disease, the extent to which the occupational therapist is involved in a patient’s care depends on his or her specific needs.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, seeking assistance from an experienced occupational therapist at Therapeutic Potentials can help you cope with the limitations and symptoms associated with RA. Contact Therapeutic Potentials today at 941-758-3140, or click here to schedule an appointment with one of our occupational therapists today.