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Osteoarthritis and Occupational Therapy

Osteoarthritis and Occupational Therapy

As a child, I remember my grandmother struggling with everyday tasks like opening a jar or turning a key, and I wondered what I could do to help. There have been times when individuals at the grocery store have asked me to help them carry bags, or pick up change from the counter, because it was too difficult for them. Such simple tasks can be painful and frustrating for people with arthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the joints between your bones experience "wear and tear." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, osteoarthritis affects more than 27 million Americans, most commonly in the hands, knees and hips. Symptoms of osteoarthritis can develop gradually, and may include stiffness, pain, joint swelling, aching and soreness. Among the treatment options to help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, occupational therapy offers a useful, informative and non-invasive starting point.

How can occupational therapy (OT) help?

Studies show that physical activity benefits overall joint health, but if movement is painful it can be difficult to know how to proceed. An occupational therapist is specially trained to help tailor specific activities based on your needs. In addition to exercises, OTs offer guidance about special tools, splints, exercises for reducing swelling and ways to protect joints.

If you are interested in seeing an occupational therapist, ask your physician for a prescription or referral and give us a call! Valley Health offers outpatient occupational therapy clinics throughout the region. For more information, please click here.

Experiencing pain and discomfort? Try these suggestions:

  1. Wrap Ace bandages around kitchen and gardening utensils for a wider, softer grip.
  2. Keep direct pressure off your joints. Investing in shoe inserts, for example, can make a big difference.
  3. Try applying heat and cold. Determine which keeps pain and stiffness at a minimum.
  4. Prioritize your work. Don’t feel you need to complete everything at once. (Only do one load of laundry at a time, for example.)
  5. Try to avoid heavy lifting. If your hand and wrist tire easily carrying a purse or briefcase, try a cross-body style or a knapsack.
  6. If your arm is painful and swollen, raise and rest it on a couple of pillows to improve blood flow.

If you don’t have arthritis but found this post informative, be sure to share with others who might benefit from these tips!

This post was contributed by Valley Health Occupational Therapist Eva Buras