6 Techniques and Equipment Used by Occupational Therapists

Occupational health care professionals offer a unique suite of services for patients whose injuries (or degenerative diseases) have caused them to lose the ability to perform work-related or leisure activities. What sets occupational therapists apart is their unique training in using techniques that help patients resume the activities they enjoy doing (or need to do for work). Successfully administering these techniques often requires specialized equipment, too. Below are a few techniques and devices that help occupational therapists with their treatment and training programs:  

1.  Spirometers

These devices measure the air capacity of the lungs and are especially helpful for patients recovering from injuries to the chest or ribcage. Rib fractures can compromise a person’s ability to breathe, so occupational therapists often use a technique called incentive spirometry (IS), a form of lung expansion therapy, to help the patient restore maximum breathing capacity. 

Using a reliable spirometer, occupational therapists ask patients to perform maximum inspiration (inhale), and then to hold the breath for 5-10 seconds. The device can systematically help patients improve their maximum lung capacity over time. Using a spirometer routinely can also help prevent mucus build-up over time and make it easier for patients to breathe. Spirometry is often used to detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even asthma.

This amazing tool has helped patients live life to the fullest extent by detecting breathing problems and helping their lungs build strength. A patient can develop his lung capacity to ability as close to normal as possible, creating a new normal. As a result, the patient can enjoy life beyond his original expectations. Spirometers are one of the most essential tools in an occupational therapist’s arsenal. 

2. Medical Screenings

Well-trained occupational therapists measure patients’ progress over time using routine medical screenings. These screenings help to ensure that the practitioners remain accountable and further ensures that patients are steadily improving over time as a result of the occupational health program. Medical screenings are one of the most effective techniques used in evidence-based practices because they yield objective data.

These screenings usually rely on specific tools, such as vision screeners, to keep track of patients’ progress. Good-quality vision screeners that check for a variety of eye-related problems are particularly helpful for patients suffering from macular degeneration or any structural damage to the eye caused by an injury. Testing for general eye health is never a bad idea anyway, so many occupational therapists incorporate eye screenings into their general physical assessments in the initial appointments with patients.

Another medical screening used by occupational therapists is known as the AMPS test. This test measures the processing and motor skills of the patient. This test is essential in determining a patient’s starting point in the process of occupational therapy and helps throughout the process to determine when the therapy has completed its goals.   


3. Physical Activity

Physical activity can aid patients in learning techniques to manage physical and mental limitations. The purpose of an occupational therapist is to help patients participate in activities of daily life, despite their mental and physical disabilities. One way to ensure participation in everyday life is to participate in physical activities.  

An occupational therapist uses physical activity to push a patient above his or her comfort zone. This process allows the patient to discover his or her abilities and strive towards them. Even the most physically exhausted patients find the use of physical activity helpful in creating a new normal in life at any age. 

4. Home Visits

Depending on the needs of the patient, occupational therapists may find home visits to be one of the most useful tools in their arsenal. Home visits allow the occupational therapist to help a patient at the heart of their environment, making real-life adjustments to the way they live, work, and function overall.

Home visits open the eyes of an occupational therapist to see what parts of daily life can change and what pieces need adaptations to make life more accessible. As with any skill set, working in a manufactured environment, such as an occupational therapist’s office, may not translate to skills within the home. Therefore, the ability to conduct home visits can provide an authentic look at life and the patient’s needs for the therapist.


5. Life Changes and Adaptions

Sometimes, the tools in an occupational therapist’s toolbox are more about changing a patient’s environment than learning to live within a non-functioning climate. Therefore, providing life changes and adapting an environment to fit the patient’s needs is crucial to the success of occupational therapy. 

Small changes, such as an electric can opener or toothbrush, can make daily functions more accessible for some patients. Those with life changes due to strokes or cardiovascular disease may require the use of tools that can help compensate for the strength in their hands or body they may no longer have. 

Sometimes more significant changes may be needed, such as installing a ramp or a chair lift. An occupational therapist can help guide a patient towards the installation of these tools and providing the necessary paperwork to obtain these tools through medical providers and insurance.

6. Patient-Centered Care

Perhaps the most effective technique used by occupational therapists is their emphasis on individualized treatment plans. The best occupational therapists tailor their approaches to each individual’s unique goals and objectives based on the activities he or she performs in daily life. Usually, a therapist spends time designing specific treatment protocols for patients that mimic the activities they ultimately want to participate in. This process can even take place in settings outside the clinic or in the patient’s home.

The goal is to ensure that the patient is able to transition from the therapeutic exercises to the real-world activities easily. Due to the practical, applicable nature of their treatment practices, occupational therapists are often well-positioned to be advocates for their patients and to provide encouragement. This advocacy is significant because some studies have shown that patients who maintain a positive outlook throughout their care can recover faster than those who don’t.

Contact the professionals at Depisteo to start your physical therapy journey.