April 3, 2009

Occupational therapy helps with arthritis

A U.S. health association says a team approach is helpful for those trying to live with debilitating arthritis.

Officials at the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals say a major part of treatment is putting together a strong team. Typically, the team is headed up by a rheumatologist -- an internist or pediatrician qualified by additional training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.

The rheumatologist refers other rheumatology health professionals to add to the team -- such as an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist will develop a treatment plan to achieve goals such as gaining or maintaining participation in daily home tasks.

The occupational therapist can help adapt environments, modify tasks and recommend equipment.

Dr. Scott Zashin, a practicing rheumatologist in Dallas, refers patients to occupational therapists for several reasons.

Patients who are concerned about loss of function, are looking for instruction on exercises or ways to decrease stress on their joints, or who simply want common sense tips on joint protection can all benefit from working with a rheumatology occupational therapist, he says in a statement.