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Occupational therapy - When occupational therapy is used

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Occupational therapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions.

Some of these conditions include those that:

  • are present from birth
  • develop with age
  • are the result of an accident

Occupational therapy is also used as part of a rehabilitation programme (a programme of treatment designed to help someone recover from illness or injury), for example after surgery or to treat depression.

Health conditions

Occupational therapy may be used to treat conditions including:

  • arthritis - a condition that causes pain and inflammation of the joints and bones, which can make handling objects difficult
  • depression - when you have feelings of extreme sadness that can last for a long time and interfere with your daily life
  • multiple sclerosis (MS) - a condition of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that affects the body's actions, such as movement and balance
  • Parkinson's disease - a condition that affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements, including walking, talking and writing
  • schizophrenia - a mental health condition that causes psychological symptoms, such as hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that do not exist)
  • dyspraxia (developmental co-ordination disorder) - a condition characterised by difficulty in planning smooth, co-ordinated movements
  • chronic pain - a constant experience of pain that lasts a long time
  • chronic fatigue syndrome - when you have constant exhaustion that doesn't go away after sleep and rest

Conditions in children

Occupational therapists may also work with children with conditions such as: 

  • cerebral palsy - a set of neurological conditions (conditions affecting the brain and nervous system) that affect a child's movement and co-ordination
  • Down's syndrome - a genetic condition that affects a baby's normal physical development and causes mild to moderate learning difficulties
  • dyspraxia - a disability that affects movement and co-ordination
  • learning disability - a disability that affects the way someone understands information and communicates
  • spina bifida - a series of birth defects that affect the development of the spine and nervous system

Ageing

Occupational therapy may be used to address problems that develop as a result of getting older. For example, you may find certain movements are not as easy as they used to be, such as getting out of bed in the morning. An occupational therapist can suggest equipment and adaptations to your home or new techniques that may be helpful. 

Occupational therapy also includes providing devices and helping devise strategies to aid memory and improve function in people with conditions associated with ageing, such as dementia (an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities) and Alzheimer's disease (the most common form of dementia). 

Rehabilitation and recovery

Occupational therapy can be used after an accident, illness or operation to help you recover and regain as much independence as possible. For example, occupational therapy may be used after:

  • hip fracture - this usually requires surgery followed by a rehabilitation programme to help you regain full mobility (the ability to move)
  • severe head injury - after a severe head injury you may find everyday activities at work or home difficult and occupational therapy may help you recover
  • stroke - you may have some weakness on one side of your body and need to learn new ways of carrying out daily activities
  • an addiction - this can make it hard to stay in work 
Medical Review: August 21, 2012
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