Occupational therapists showcase their grasp for your grip

Occupational therapists showcase their grasp for your grip

by Douglas H. Stutz

NAVAL HOSPITAL BREMERTON, Wash. — From grip strengthening to glaucoma support, Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Occupational Therapy Clinic displayed a sample of what they offer eligible beneficiaries with a command presentation recently.

The event was held in conjunction with April designated as Occupational Therapy Month, with occupational therapists showcasing how they use a holistic approach to rehabilitate and treat physical, psychological, and even emotional injuries.

“We help our patients get back to doing the things they want to do to occupy their time, hence our name, occupational. Our goal is to improve our patient’s quality of life to be able to return to being independent in their daily lifestyle. We wanted to increase awareness by holding this presentation to show what and who we are, and also show the difference between us and our Physical Therapy counterparts,” said Ms. Teri Nyblom, Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant.

According to Nyblom, the difference between occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) is that OT is regarded as an all-inclusive healthcare profession that promotes health by enabling individuals to achieve independence and improve their ability to perform meaningful and purposeful daily activities across their lifespan.

PT, although somewhat similar, is a healthcare profession that primarily focuses on remediation – fixing – impairment(s) and/or disabilities and the promotion of a patient’s physical mobility, movement, and ability to function.

There is an overlap between the two disciplines as both OT and PT focus on injury recovery and educating their patients towards that goal.

“We deal with a lot of repetitive motion injuries and such conditions as post-surgical rehabilitation by combining ultrasound, massage, teaching and training to heal. Healing can be hard. For example, scarring can prevent range of motion. Our goal is to help a patient recover their normal range of motion,” Nyblom said.

They also work with patients who have had a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, need in-home therapy and help with debilitating low vision issues such as glaucoma, a major eye disease than can lead to disability.

Compiled statistics associated with the January National Glaucoma Awareness Month campaign noted that occupational therapists have an increasingly significant role in helping people deal with low vision. They assist patients in such ways as helping to modify home lighting, identifying trip and fall hazards, and color/contrast everyday instruments, utensils and appliances.

“Providing support for visual needs is a very important part of what we do. We share that there are simply solutions to some issues involving limited vision. If a person is having a hard time pouring their coffee into a dark cup, by simply changing the color of the cup to a lighter color, the contrast makes it easier for the person. Sounds simple, but sometimes we can wrapped up in everything else that we don’t think of such an easy fix,” stated Nyblom.

When Nyblom asks a patient to test their grip strength, it generally isn’t about how strong a person can grasp a golf club or tennis racket. The hand dynamometer instrument used to document grip strength is a good indicator to check for other health conditions such as cerebrovascular accident, or what is more commonly known as a stroke.

“It’s also a great assessment tool to gauge wrist, hand, and forearm dexterity and isometric strength,” said Nyblom.

The common injuries seen by the OT clinic tend to be associated with the wrist, hand and forearm such as lacerated tendon(s) on a finger(s), tendinitis – inflammation – fractures and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“We see a ton of lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis – more commonly known as tennis elbow and golfers elbow. Both injuries are caused by overuse,” said Nyblom.

They also supervise and direct rehabilitation efforts for hip and knee surgery.

“We use adaptive equipment that assists in completing daily activities such as bathing and dressing. Even before someone goes in for surgery, especially for hip and knee surgery, we want them to be know what to expect and be prepared. Then afterwards, if someone goes, ‘I’ll just get my spouse to do it,’ we’ll reply, ‘don’t you want to be independent and be able to do it on your own?’ We also go over fall prevention, environmental modification, behavior modification and exercises/strengthening to get our patients back to where they want to be,” explained Nyblom.

Occupational therapists also treat such diagnoses as arthritis, autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, complex regional pain syndrome, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, neuropathy, microcephaly, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington’s disease.

“I love my job. I get to help our patients regain their independence and get back to doing the things they love to do,” Nyblom said.

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