• June 07

Occupational Therapists For Upper Extremity Injuries

Occupational Therapists For Upper Extremity Injuries

If you sustained a serious and complex upper extremity injury, such as your arms, hands, wrist, forearm, elbow, or shoulder, then you may need assistance from an occupational therapist. Perhaps you were involved in an auto collision, slip, and fall, workplace accident, or some other type of personal injury accident that led to extremity damage. Depending on the injury in itself, you may have a long road to recovery. 

The goal of occupational therapy for upper extremity injury patients is to get them back to being able to have meaningful participation in daily life. Occupational therapy professionals have been educated and trained in both pathology and psychosocial development, allowing them to support their patients’ needs in many ways. 

Benefits of Occupational Therapy

Having an injury in the upper extremities can be a major disruption to everyday life, as most of the activities we do necessitate the use of our shoulders, arms, and hands. An occupational therapist understands the impact that such an injury can have on the patient, and can work with the patient to enhance their mental health, teach new skills, and provide needed equipment while they are in recovery. Occupational therapy is a client-centered, holistic approach in which patients are worked with based on their current degree of function.

After evaluating the patient’s current abilities and the severity of upper extremity damage, they can create a treatment plan so that the patient can perform at his or her greatest level of independence. Promoting this sense of independence, it encourages the patient to integrate the use of their healing upper extremities as quickly as possible, encouraging the journey to maximum function. 

Examples of Upper Extremity Injuries

Occupational therapists not only examine the physical injury but evaluate the effect it has on the patient’s psychosocial health and environment. An occupational therapist may visit the person’s home and workplace, and implement strategies for getting around easier and performing certain tasks while nursing the upper extremity injury. Examples of upper extremity injuries that an occupational therapist may treat or help a patient adjust to a new way of living include the following:

  • Fractures
  • Arthritis 
  • Amputations
  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Dislocations 
  • Subluxations
  • Crush injuries
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Muscle tears, strains or avulsions
  • Nerve injuries (nerve repair, neuropathies, palsies)
  • Ligament instability
  • Cumulative trauma
  • Replantation and revascularization
  • Neuromuscular pathologies
  • Thermal and electrical injuries
  • Pain (fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome)

Interventions by an occupational therapist are created to meet the needs of that patient and may entail a combination of:

  • Scar management
  • Therapeutic activities/exercises
  • Joint protection
  • Sensory Re-education
  • Pain management
  • Daily activities training or adaption 
  • Post-surgery education 

The occupational approach goes farther than just addressing the upper extremity injury in itself, but also strives to support the patient and provide solutions for functional challenges because of the bodily damage. Occupational therapists may also work closely with treating physicians and surgeons so they can develop a treatment plan with the most favorable outcomes. If you or someone you love needs occupational therapy, then don’t hesitate to contact an occupational therapist near you for more information. 

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