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What is the role of occupational therapy in orthopedics?

Updated on April 29, 2011

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational Therapy helps disabled persons achieving a good quality of life and earn a good living with activity modification and workplace management. Now before knowing the role of occupational therapy or OT in orthopedics, you must know what is occupational therapy. From what I have read and understood in the past years, occupational therapy means enabling people having physical/mental disabilities or abnormalities to achieve a good functioning life and helping those disabled individuals live their life independently and helping them earn a good living by assessing the injury sustained and treating it with the help of splints, orthotics, ergonomic evaluation, modifications at workplace and managing it.

Do you want to become an occupational therapist

An occupational therapist assisting a disbled patient.
An occupational therapist assisting a disbled patient.
An informational chart showing ergonomic modifications of the workstation to help prevent reinjury.
An informational chart showing ergonomic modifications of the workstation to help prevent reinjury.

Role of occupational therapists in orthopedics:

Occupational therapists role consists of Assessment, Planning, Implementation, and evaluation of management. In management, primary role is improving the skills in activities of daily living, work, play, and leisure.

Further role includes but not limited to:

  1. Designing and Fabrication of Hand Splints. Occupational therapists are considered as specialists worldwide, with added practical knowledge in hand rehabilitation and training. They have advantage over orthotist who also makes an orthosis.
  2. Designing and fabrication of adaptive devices which helps the disabled people to be independent in their function.
  3. Occupational therapists are specialists in Hand Function Training, since work requires more of good hand function, occupational therapists are trained well in hand function management. In US, both occupational therapist and physiotherapist along with orthopedicians are eligible to become Certified Hand Therapists.
  4. Occupational therapists are also ergonomic consultants who make modifications at workplace, make modifications of working method, make adaptive devices to make sure that work is done without much difficulty.
  5. Occupational therapists are generally trained in functional capacity evaluations, job analysis, work hardening, work conditioning, and vocational training programs.
  6. Most commonly used approaches by Occupational Therapists are humanistic, psychosocial, compensatory, and biomechanical.

What is work hardening?

Work Hardening is a work-oriented treatment program and the outcome is measured in terms of the improvement in the client's productivity. It is a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach that uses graded work stimulation to address the biomedical and psychosocial problems of the injured worker. Improvement in productivity is achieved through graded activity designed to increase work tolerances, improve work rate, master pain, improve work habits, and increase confidence and proficiency with work adaptations or assistive devices. It involves the client in highly structured, simulated work tasks in an environment in which expectations for basic worker behaviors (timeliness, attendance, and dress) are in keeping with workplace standards. Program duration varies from 2 to 12 weeks with daily participation ranging from 2 to 8 hours.

Work hardening programs use a variety of tools, equipment's, work samples, and work capacity evaluation devices (WCEDs). WCEDs allow presentation of tasks that simulate job tasks and that can be graded in difficulty or length of time involved. There are more than 500 work hardening programs identified in US and the large majority of these programs were established by occupational therapists.

One of the classic work hardening program is at the Liberty Mutual Services Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. Occupational therapy at this center offers clients with chronic low back injuries a favorable environment where they can practice and improve the execution of work-related activities needed to perform their jobs while learning to live with or control symptoms. Monitors and workstations have been especially designed and developed to evaluate and develop work tolerances.

Treatment includes client education through discussion, demonstration, active participation, and visual aids. Topics include anatomy of the spine, body mechanics, energy conservation, relaxation techniques, and weight reduction, if appropriate. relaxation techniques include progressive relaxation techniques, meditation, increased body awareness, and control of breathing and muscle tension.

Modalities used include a balanced monitor that provides feedback on weightbearing and symmetry of posture. A multi-workstation simulates construction jobs. The truck simulator uses a truck cab along with a computerized video road screen to simulate and measure the driving process. A computerized pneumatic lift has been designed to simulate lifting process. An upper extremity work simulator similar to the BTE (Baltimore Therapeutic Equipment) is used to simulate various upper extremity work tasks.

Research on the effectiveness of work hardening programs has been systematically gathered since the mid 1980s. Return to work statistics obtained from these programs ranges from 50 to 60% to 85 to 88%.

What is work conditioning

When a client has got an uncomplicated injury and his/her physical limitations are precluding return to work, work conditioning may be an appropriate intervention. Work conditioning is typically provided as a uni-disciplinary or bi-disciplinary occupational and/or physical therapy half-day program that uses exercise, aerobic conditioning, education, and limited work tasks to restore an individual's systemic and neuromusculoskeletal function like endurance, strength, flexibility, movement, and motor control, so that the clients can return to their work or become physically re-conditioned, so that vocational services can be commenced.


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    • profile image

      hemant kumar 14 months ago

      i m student of OT .

      i want well described "role of OT in ortho. disorders".

      soni sir can u help me?

    • profile image

      apexa desai 6 years ago

      its really very gud. as a ot student i like it very much.

    • profile image

      Megan 6 years ago

      As a practioner of OT i want to thank you for covering this. There is much more we do though with ortho and the difference between acute Vs Rehab and sub acute. You can contact you local university or go to for more info

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hello jessicab, it happens sometimes, especially when you don't consult with an experienced occupational therapist. Rest assured, for most workers, occupational therapy always do good than create more problems.

    • jessicab profile image

      jessicab 7 years ago from Alabama

      I went through this type of thearpy and it did more harm than good.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you so much Sun-Girl for being a regular reader of my hubs.

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 7 years ago from Nigeria

      So happy to read from your inspirational hubs again soni2006.Actually, these very one is well stated and properly written which i so much enjoyed reading from.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I think you are right DePuy. Occupational therapy is not so popular in many developing countries. If employers give a thought to this, then we would have been able to save a lot of their trained workers from getting disabled for life.

    • profile image

      DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit 7 years ago

      This is a very informational hub. Back in our home town, orthopedic therapy isn't as highly popular as physical therapy. People back home must not have realized the potential of being able to recover and earn a living after a certain disability.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      It's my pleasure Hiral, OT Gujrat.

    • profile image

      Hiral 8 years ago

      its awsome article. thank you

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      It's my pleasure quildon. Thanks for reading this hub on Occupational therapy and orthopedics.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 8 years ago from Florida

      As an OT I am always happy to read anything about OT. Thanks for sharing.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Mr. Ndirangu, I am so happy today to receive a positive comment from such an experienced OT lecturer like you. Thanks a lot for the appreciation.

    • profile image

      Eunice Ndirangu 8 years ago

      You have articulated our role in orhtopaedics so well.

      Am an O.T. lecturer at KMTC Nairo.

      Keep it up.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 9 years ago from New Delhi, India

      You are welcome medstudent. I have gained this knowledge because of my profession of medical transcription because othopedics covers 70% of medical transcripts in my industry because most of our work comes from US and in US, there are many cases of motor vehicle collisions, work-related injuries, where the role of occupational medicine and occupational therapy is involved.

    • profile image

      medstudent 9 years ago

      tq soni... ur info on occupational therapy in ortho is simply excellent... tq so much... keep up the good work..

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 9 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks Pankaj. Its my pleasure.

    • pankaj3625 profile image

      Pankaj Pathak 9 years ago from Delhi

      You have shared your knowledge in a perfect manner describing the role of OT in ortho

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 9 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks Jitender. It is my pleasure that you being in the field of orthopedics have admired my webpage. Yes, I know that there are more things to add and I will definitely do it when I will learn about them.

    • profile image

      Jitender 9 years ago

      As I am a student of orthopedics, I found your article on occupational therapy's role in orthopedics brilliant. Though there are more things to add on in this hub, it is very informative.


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