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A Patient's Guide to Occupational Therapy

By Cori Ritchey

 

When a patient is injured or becomes sick, activities of daily living can become quite difficult. Depending on the amount of help that a person has, living conditions have the potential to severely plummet through the recovery process. April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational Therapists help patients navigate these tasks so they are able to stay as independent as possible.

 

“The main scope of our practice is helping people get back to doing thing they would do in their everyday lives,” says Lindsay Tobey, an occupational therapist.

 

Occupational therapy teaches patients new or more effective ways of doing normal tasks. Down the line with the recovery process, they can also reintroduce skills as a patient’s prognosis improves. They are able to provide useful medical equipment and tools that can make these tasks easier. Therapists will also evaluate the patient’s environment and help change things to adapt to their newfound limitations.

 

Specialties of the Occupational Therapist

Often, occupational therapists choose a specialty areas. Among them are the following:

 

Orthopedics

Occupational therapists often work with patients after they have undergone an orthopedic procedure that limits physical mobility. Examples of this include broken bone repairs, ligament and tendon repairs, joint replacements, and spinal surgeries such as fusions. Therapists can assist in everything from learning how to wash your hair after a shoulder replacement to being able to put shoes on independently after a hip replacement.

 

Neurology

This kind of therapy also plays a large role in neurological ailments, such as strokes, traumatic brain injuries,  and those living with epilepsy. Therapists often work with patients to help them be as independent as possible while going through the recovery process or acclimating to their new normal.

 

Working with Patients with Developmental Disabilities

Those with developmental disabilities also benefit from occupational therapy treatment. Many times, patients that suffer from learning disabilities, severe autism, among others, require special attention to retain skills required of daily life. Because of this, many therapists work in schools to assist young children with these disabilities.

According to Lindsay Tobey, the occupational therapist, there are a few ways to maximize your experience with your OT:

 

  1. Be patient: “Your healing isn’t going to happen overnight,” Tobey says. It may take multiple sessions before pain starts to subside, and it is always best for patients to understand that healing is a process.

 

  1. Do your at-home exercises: “The best way to help your therapy is to keep up with your home exercises,” Tobey says. “If you think about the grand scheme of things, you’re only with us a few hours a week and the rest you’re at home, so you have to do your homework.”

 

Occupational therapists are there to help you feel better in your everyday life. Patience and persistence will help strengthen you, and ultimately help your independence.

 

“Our motto in the OT practice is that motion is lotion,” Tobey says.

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Cori Ritchey is a Washington D.C. native newly transplanted to the Boston area, expected to graduate from Emerson College in 2022 with a Masters in Journalism. She is a graduate of  Penn State University with a bachelors of science in Kinesiology. Through her experience working on the frontlines of health care, led by a love for reading, writing, and public speaking, Cori became a health and science reporter to shed light on these issues.

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Helping Our Immune System Prepare for
Allergy Season

By Cori Ritchey

 

Springtime - a symbol of new beginnings as the snow melts, the world heats up, and everything breaks into bloom. With the beauty and rebirth of spring comes a very common and unwelcome guest: allergies.

 

Allergies are a type of antigen - foreign substances that the body deems are harmful. The presence of allergens causes our immune system to jump into action, by releasing white blood cells. This causes the common symptoms we know well during allergy season including sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, and sore throats.

 

Many common allergies start to pop up in the spring, as plants begin to come back to live. One of the most common allergens is pollen, which can come from trees, grass, and weeds. As these plants release pollen into the air to fertilize and grow more plants, we breathe in the pollen and can get sick. Other types of allergens seen in the spring include mold and dust mites.

 

There are many immune boosting nutrients that we can incorporate into our diets to help our immune system fight off allergies.

 

Vitamin C

The most known vitamin to help our immune system is Vitamin C. Vitamin C assists in white blood cell production, which is the acting unit of our immune systems. Vitamin C is in a ton of fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, and clementines

  • Greens such as broccoli and kale

  • Other non-citrus fruits such as strawberries and kiwi

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is best known for reducing inflammation, which is key in supporting our immune system. One of the best ways to get enough vitamin D is by being in the sunshine, with the recommended being 10-15 minutes of exposure three times a week. There are only a few foods that have vitamin D, so supplementation can sometimes be necessary. Foods that do hold the vitamin include:

  • Seafood such as salmon, swordfish, sardines and tuna

  • Egg yolks

  • Mushrooms

 

Selenium

This mineral and antioxidant helps reduce inflammation in the body, and thus helps the immune system. Humans don’t need a lot to reap its benefits, and it is found in many food groups including:

  • Seafoods such as oysters, yellowfin tuna, sardines and halibut

  • Meats such as eggs and chicken breast

  • Vegetarian options such as sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, and shiitake mushrooms

 

Iron

Iron is critical for immune cells to function properly by aiding in the cells maturation. It also helps by carrying oxygen to cells. Iron can be found in:

  • Meats including chicken, turkey, and red meats

  • Seafood including oysters, clams, and mussels

  • Vegetables including kale, spinach, and broccoli

  • Legumes such as bean, lentils, and chickpeas

 

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that helps our immune system fight off bacteria and heal wounds, but our bodies do not naturally produce it and do not store it. We must get it from foods including:

  • Shellfish such as oysters, crabs, mussels, and lobster

  • Meats such as chicken, turkey and red meat

  • Some vegetarian options such as beans and some fortified breads

 

While a balanced diet is vital to immune health, it is not the only thing our system needs. A few other ways to keep immune health high include:

  • Staying hydrated. Water helps with all of our bodily functions, including our immune system

  • Exercise regularly. Movement helps aid in the circulation of our immune cells.

  • Get enough sleep. The recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night for an adult is enough time to produce the right amount of white blood cells our immune system needs.

  • Chill out. Stress can very quickly weaken our immune systems by limiting the amount of lymphocytes in our bodies, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections. Stress can also cause inflammation on different parts of the body.

Cori Ritchie photo.jpeg

Cori Ritchey is a Washington D.C. native newly transplanted to the Boston area, expected to graduate from Emerson College in 2022 with a Masters in Journalism. She is a graduate of  Penn State University with a bachelors of science in Kinesiology. Through her experience working on the frontlines of health care, led by a love for reading, writing, and public speaking, Cori became a health and science reporter to shed light on these issues.

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