When more than 70 million Americans rely on cellphones to help manage their lives, it’s to be expected such a technology phenomenon would affect more than how we communicate with one another. Keeping your eyes on the mobile screen forces repetitive movements to your shoulders, neck, elbows, and thumbs—causing pain and even structural damage to joints, muscles, and tendons, not to mention eyestrain.
Enter the occupational therapist. These practitioners can arm you with ways to modify your smartphone use, as just one example, so you can avoid or decrease discomfort or pain.
Help for Daily Activities
See, that’s the thing with occupational therapists. They treat patients who are injured, ill, or disabled, not simply because there is a problem, but rather because the problem has thrown a wrench into the patient’s daily activities that matter most to them. Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to evaluate why your life has been affected while helping you develop, recover, and improve the skills you need every day.
Occupational therapists treat patients with a wide range of conditions. For example, they’ll:
- Teach a stroke victim how to get dressed
- Demonstrate stretching exercises for arthritis relief
- Help label kitchen cabinets for an older person with poor memory
- Educate patients with cerebral palsy on how to use leg braces, wheelchairs, or eating aids
- Modify classroom equipment to help children with disabilities more easily participate in activities
- Adjust patients’ work environment to prevent computer-related issues like carpal tunnel syndrome or eyestrain
- Provide strategies for time management, budgeting, or using public transportation to patients with mental illness, emotional problems, or addiction
Technology Harm and Help
Although technology can contribute to the reasons you might seek occupational therapy, it can also play a role in your recovery. For example, if you have cellphone elbow—caused by too much bending of the elbow to hold your phone to your ear—you may experience tingling and numbness in your pinkie finger and possibly weakness in the hand. An occupational therapist will educate you on why these movements are causing discomfort, recommend different ways to use the phone, and arm you with ways to help the elbow heal (such as providing a splint).
Some practitioners even use gaming devices, such as the Nintendo Wii, to provide rehabilitative activities. Research over the past 10 years has suggested that Wii games, such as boxing, fishing, and brain teasers, increase motivation, decreased depression, and improved quality of life and mobility among patients with Parkinson’s disease. Practitioners can also use smartphones and tablets to facilitate fine motor skills and sequencing, and to run text-to-speech programs.
Frannie Bienvenu, Occupational Therapist, graduated from LSU Medical Center with a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy. She is NDT certified, LSVT BIG certified, and STAR certified for cancer rehabilitation. Frannie has been LSVT BIG certified for over 2 years and during this time has helped many clients with Parkinson’s disease achieve their goals. She enjoys being an integral part of their rehab process, finding how rewarding it is to help each client identify their challenges, then to help them overcome these challenges.