An occupational therapist (OT) is a trained healthcare professional who works with people to help them carry out everyday activities and lead fulfilling lives. Some OTs have specialist skills in treating people with arthritis.
OTs may work in hospitals, Social Services or primary care.
How can I be referred to an OT?
You may be referred to a specialist OT by your consultant rheumatologist, GP or by another member of your healthcare team. You may be referred:
- when you’re first diagnosed
- if you have difficulties getting about
- if you have difficulties managing everyday activities.
Some rheumatology departments also offer an open system, where you can request to see an OT independently. Your GP can also refer you to the primary care OT, or you can approach Social Services yourself if you’re having difficulty managing at home.
How can an OT help me?
Discussing your condition and what you can do to help yourself
It makes sense to start looking after your joints as soon as you know that you have arthritis. Making changes early on can help you to avoid problems becoming worse in the future.
Your OT will show you how to look after your joints by reducing strain, which should also ease aches and pains. This is called joint protection. This includes pacing and planning in order to achieve a balance between activity and rest.
Giving practical advice on how you can overcome everyday problems
Making everyday activities easier
Your OT can help you to analyse your activities, working out where the problems are and suggesting changes. You may need to rethink the way you do things, such as:
- positioning yourself more comfortably
- taking frequent breaks
- asking someone to help with heavier jobs.
The OT can help you identify and obtain specialist equipment to help you get about and manage everyday tasks. Social Services OTs are experts in home adaptations such as level-access showers and ramps.
If you have difficulties getting out and about or with driving, your OT will be able to advise you on wheelchairs, scooters, walking frames and special adaptations for your car.
Offering advice about employment and leisure activities
If you have arthritis you may have difficulty doing some aspects of your job. You may have had to take time off work and be concerned about how you’ll cope when you return. Your OT will be able to assess your situation and advise you.
OTs recognise the importance of continuing your hobbies and leisure activities and will try to offer advice that will help you continue doing the things that you enjoy.
Wearing splints can help to rest and support painful, swollen joints. The OT may make splints for you or prescribe ready-made ones.