How Occupational Therapy Can Help Manage Chronic Pain

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Manage Chronic Pain

Pain can be a crippling feeling, affecting your daily routines. An Occupational Therapist (OT) is well-equipped to help you overcome these limitations.

An OT uses the biopsychosocial model of pain, which means they consider all aspects of your health and well-being. Let’s examine how an OT can assist you with chronic pain management: 1. Physical Activity.

Physical Activity

Chronic pain is characterized by joint and muscle aches, fatigue, poor sleep, loss of stamina, and soreness caused by arthritis and other joint problems, back problems, fibromyalgia, surgery, or cancer. OTs can work with you to develop a plan to manage your symptoms and return to regular activity.

Occupational therapy is a client-centered practice that supports clients in engaging in daily activities that are important and meaningful to them. Our therapists are trained to assess your function in all areas of life, including work, home, and community, and can offer recommendations on wellness techniques to help manage your symptoms.

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage pain and increase physical strength. An OT can guide you on how to use various tools like pacing, goal setting, and activity analysis to improve your ability to participate in everyday tasks. OTs can also provide advice on adaptive aids and environmental modifications to help you perform daily tasks with ease while reducing the risk of flare-ups.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Often, individuals who live with chronic pain experience significant mood changes. These can include depression, anxiety, frustration, and irritability. They may also have difficulty sleeping, resulting in fatigue and reduced quality of life.

As a holistic treatment approach, OTs can help manage chronic pain through cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of psychotherapy that aims to change negative or dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. This includes refocusing your attention away from thinking about the pain and toward things you can control in your life.

Many people with chronic pain believe their pain is inaccurate or “all in their head.” This type of mentality only compounds your physical symptoms and limits your level of functioning. Occupational therapists use various CBT techniques, including acceptance and commitment therapy, to help you better understand your pain and reframe your beliefs about it.

Medication Management

Pain medications are an essential part of managing chronic pain. OTs are trained to help individuals with medication regimens, including dosage and frequency. They can also help patients find alternative ways to manage their pain so they aren’t taking oral medications that increase the risk of adverse side effects.

OTs can help individuals to understand their pain and how it may affect them emotionally, mentally, socially, and physically. They can teach coping strategies that can reduce depression and anxiety caused by chronic pain. They can also help to create daily schedules and routines to promote activity engagement and improve mood.

Occupational therapy is a holistic approach that views the person as multifaceted and considers physical, cultural, environmental, psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of their well-being. Our therapists are experts in assessing and treating the complexities of an individual’s pain experience to support recovery and quality of life.

Social Skills

OTs are trained to help individuals manage their symptoms by considering biological, psychological, and social factors. They may incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy to help reframe beliefs about pain and improve coping strategies. They are also skilled in teaching methods for pacing activity, which involves estimating the length of time that an individual can engage in a task before experiencing increased pain.

Participants are taught how to set weekly goals for scheduling pleasant activities and increase the frequency and range of these over time. They are also given four attention distraction techniques to reduce pain: lovely imagery, focal point, auditory stimuli, and challenging mental tasks (e.g., counting backward by increments of any number).

Occupational therapists are also trained in addressing various physical needs such as splinting, swelling or edema management, training for coordination and agility, and using thermal modalities. They can also prescribe assistive devices to aid with mobility and function.

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