Pacifica Orthopedics, Huntington Beach, California.

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The Role Of The Occupational Therapist in Orthopedics


Occupational therapy plays a pivotal role in the recovery and rehabilitation of patients with musculoskeletal injuries or conditions where proper movement has been affected. By working closely with the Orthopedic surgeon to achieve treatment goals, the Occupational Therapist is responsible for providing ongoing rehabilitation and care of the patient. By assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating the management of the injury or condition the Occupational Therapist aims to improve the balance and function of the patients musculoskeletal system.

There are stages to the rehabilitation of patients according to their injury or condition, and it is often seen as the second stage of the patients recovery process. This type of rehabilitation will generally follow Orthopedic surgery and a hospital stay where other related treatments have been performed. This can be a particularly difficult time for the patient as it is only in rehabilitation that the management of recovery becomes something that the patient must co-manage with close monitoring and guidance by the Occupational Therapist. During this stage the patient is encouraged to learn new skills, begin to re-build physical strength as well as mental stamina and in many cases address the realities that many orthopedic conditions such as spinal injuries, trauma accidents, amputations and joint replacements require.

The role of the Occupational Therapist in Orthopedics is to assist patients to manage and overcome some of the limitations due to their condition or injury. By helping the patient to work and live independently, as well as helping to improve their well being, it is hoped that with the assistance of the occupational therapist the patient is able to improve the quality of their life. The therapist will assess the abilities of the lifestyle that the patient had prior to the surgery or illness, as well as expectations of lifestyle post surgery. Many times the therapist will consult with the family of the patient, the Orthopedic surgeon in charge of the surgery and other treating physicians to develop a program that will best suit the expectations of those involved.

The Orthopedic Occupational Therapist will assist the patient allowing for them to adjust to their physical condition. Their role is to get the patient to participate in daily tasks such as dressing and undressing, employment or education and training, as well as social and recreational activities. When dealing with patients that have had major orthopedic surgery it is imperative that the patient is able to become independent and be able to manage lifestyle choices and activities with as much support and guidance so that they may do so independently later.

The therapist may also help to find and assist in using mobility supports and wheelchairs. They are also trained to assess the home and employment or education provider for suitability to the patients needs. Should there need to be recommendations and adaptations made to any of these environments, the occupational therapist is able to do so on the patients behalf. This could be as basic as wheel chair ramps and wheelchair parking access, all the way through to refurbishment of the specific area.

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