By Rebecca Gillett, MS OTR/L – Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast Co-Host
If you have tuned into our podcast, you probably already know that occupational therapy (OT) changed my life in more ways than one. If you didn’t know, you definitely want to listen now to this latest episode on Occupational Therapy Benefits for Arthritis to hear why.
What is occupational therapy? Why should you care if you have arthritis? Is it really going to help you manage your arthritis pain and symptoms? Yes. I wholeheartedly believe it.
You have more time in an occupational therapy session than you do with your doctor, and you visit your OT more, so you can ask the questions you want answers to as it relates to doing the things you want and need to do daily. I learned more about managing my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) while learning to become an OT than I did in the four years prior to starting grad school.
Occupational therapy is focused on helping you learn to adapt how you are moving or using your joints, adapt the environment or tools you are using to complete a task or adapting the task at hand. All of this with the goal that you can still do the activities you want to do, but maybe in a different way.
OT can help you learn some of the basic principles for preventing further or more pain in your joints by teaching you joint protection principles and helping you learn how to apply energy conservation to your daily routines. No matter if you are newly diagnosed or have had arthritis for years, you will benefit from spending some time in an OT session with a therapist who has some experience in working with arthritis patients. There could be hobbies or activities you used to do but gave up on, thinking your arthritis is not going to let you. This is where an OT’s work can really help problem-solve to get you back to saying Yes to those things you enjoy and love.
While there’s not a cure for arthritis, we need to take control by learning and understanding how we can prevent and manage pain in our daily tasks and lives.
April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month and the theme — Passion, Purpose, Possibility — couldn’t resonate any more for me. I became an OT because, once I learned some basic joint protection skills from an OT two years into my diagnosis, I realized there were things I could do to help manage my symptoms.
This then became my new passion. I could make sense of the RA journey I was going through and found my purpose. I changed my career path to fulfill my purpose, with a passion to help others avoid the pain and suffering I had experienced for two years. All of this, to help others with arthritis see there is still possibility in life, despite arthritis. This is my life’s passion and purpose. It has brought me so much possibility.
If you are newly or recently diagnosed with any type of arthritis, I encourage you to ask your doctor for a referral to occupational therapy. If you have had arthritis for a while and have never seen an OT, I encourage you to see one and add them to your health care team. Maybe there is a new joint issue popping up or an activity you used to do and can’t anymore but are looking for a way to get back to it. OT can help. I know you will reap the benefits as I did in so many ways.