How Occupational and Physical Therapy Can Help Your Spinal Cord Injury
If you suffer a spinal cord injury, it can impact your life significantly. There are several ways this might happen.
You might get in a car accident or fall off a roof. You may slip and fall in a store or on a construction site. These injuries are relatively common, and if this happens to you, you need to assess how badly you are hurt. Then, you can determine what you can do to return to your normal life if that’s possible.
Sometimes, you can recover fully and resume your life as though nothing ever happened. Other times, you won’t ever completely heal, but you can still do many of the things you once could.
You may be able to accomplish this through occupational and physical therapy. In this article, we’ll explain what those are and how they can help you.
What Are Occupational and Physical Therapies?
If you suffer a spinal cord injury, a doctor might bring up occupational or physical therapy as you’re talking about some treatment and strengthening options. Physical therapy:
- Might involve massage or heat treatments
- Usually involves exercises as well
Basically, physical therapy is a way to get you back to normal, or as close to it as possible, without surgery or drugs. Occupational therapy:
- Is an assessment and intervention method
- Helps you maintain, recover, or develop meaningful life activities
In other words, if you start doing occupational therapy, it’s a methodology through which you can resume some of your normal, everyday activities after injuring yourself. You meet up with occupational therapists and assistant occupational therapists. They assess your condition and do rehab work with you.
These two disciplines or methodologies are similar to one another, and the treatments sometimes intersect. They’re holistic, practical ways to improve your condition, and they often help spinal cord injury patients.
How Can You Pay for Them?
In this country, occupational and physical therapies are part of privatized, for-profit medical care. If you have health insurance, you can use it to sign up for one of these treatment methods.
If you have health insurance through your job, you can use that. You might have copays for each session until you reach your yearly deductible, which is the limit of what you must pay each year. If you have better health insurance, you might not have any copays or any yearly deductible that you must reach.
If you have a self-employment situation, you usually have to get healthcare through the marketplace. If you’re retired, you might use Medicare to help pay for it.
Whatever payment method you use, you should prioritize these treatments. Without them, you may never or even partially recover from what happened to you, and your life will be very difficult going forward.
What Do You Do During Physical or Occupational Therapy Sessions?
How badly you injured yourself will determine what exactly you do during your sessions. You might start with some light warm-up style exercises to get your muscle kinks out. This will get easier as you go along but may be quite challenging right after the accident.
You will test your strength and motion range. If you can walk, you’ll work on that, or if you can’t walk at the moment, you will build toward that goal.
Your therapist or assistant therapists will help you increase your mobility if that is possible. They will also work on regaining some of the strength you lost.
They will help you build up the confidence you need to go through some of your daily life tasks. Those might be things like walking around the house, getting into and out of the bathtub or shower, cooking, walking up and down stairs, etc.
Most physical and occupational therapists use props and tools to help them, such as resistance bands, exercise bikes, stability balls, etc. They might also employ walkers or wheelchairs if that’s what you need. You can practice how to use those if you never have before.
These sessions sometimes end with a nice massage or heat therapy to relax the activated muscles.
What Can These Sessions Accomplish?
What these sessions can accomplish depends on each individual’s injuries. In some instances, you can regain a lot of movement and confidence in this way. You can eventually get out of your wheelchair or stop using your walker.
You can move around the house, visit with friends, and more easily accomplish work tasks. It all depends on the injury severity, but also on your treatment response and whether you dedicate yourself to getting better.
Sometimes, improving from spinal cord injuries can be a meticulous process. You may grow frustrated at some point. The process can take weeks, months, or even years.
However, it’s best to go into these situations with an open mind. You can work closely with both the occupational or physical therapists and your doctors. Together, you’re all trying to get you back on your feet or at least able to function in various settings and situations.
Sometimes, physical therapy alone is not the answer. You may still need to have surgery at some point, and you may need to use over-the-counter or prescription drugs if you’re experiencing significant pain. Every individual’s situation is unique.
While this may be one of your life’s most difficult times, hopefully, your family can support you as you go through this. They can drive you to and from your physical or occupational therapy sessions, for instance. They can be your cheerleaders as you gradually recover.
You may seek counseling as you go through this if the results discourage you. You may have some bleak moods sometimes because your life is so dramatically different.
The essential thing to remember is that you should never give up. Physical and occupational therapists are usually very upbeat people, and that can rub off on you. They want nothing more than to see you return to your normal strength and functionality, and often, they are your best chance to do that.