Occupational therapists (OTs) pride themselves on creating treatment plans that are specifically tailored to their patients. The reason for this is that each individual has different needs and goals, so they need different methods of achieving those goals. As their treatment plans vary, OTs often work collaboratively with experts in other disciplines, and they are very high in demand. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are two areas experiencing increasing demand.
While occupational therapy focuses on developing skills that enable independent living, physiotherapy focuses more on physical exercises to build strength, flexibility and mobility. Hydrotherapy uses warm water to support relaxation and provide therapeutic exercise. With more integrated care being sought by patients, combining these therapies provides a holistic approach with great positive outcomes.
Understanding occupational therapy
Occupational therapy is the process of helping people to develop and maintain the skills needed for everyday life. Extensive education is required to become an OT, which can be done in person or remotely. Just like in-person courses, online OTD programs at an institution like American International College, will provide comprehensive training and equip students with all the expertise to implement evidence-based practice and research in a variety of settings.
OTs focus on helping individuals with physical, mental, developmental or emotional limitations to increase their independence and improve their ability to function in all aspects of life. They also help those with difficulty performing particular activities due to injury or illness.
Using techniques such as sensory integration, tactile stimulation, motor coordination training and cognitive retraining, an OT can address any deficits in functioning that a patient may have. This helps make daily tasks easier by finding different ways to approach them. In addition to these techniques, OTs may also use different tools or equipment to help, and they may also modify a client’s environment if they deem it necessary.
The role of physiotherapy in patient rehabilitation
The focus of physiotherapy is physical mobility and related functions, such as balance and coordination. It is most commonly a form of rehab, and it is used to help people restore movement, reduce pain and improve their quality of life. While OTs focus on patient participation in meaningful activities, physiotherapists work towards restoring function through exercises that target specific impairments.
The list of benefits of this form of treatment is a long one. Not only can it increase strength, mobility and balance, but it can also lead to improved posture. Physiotherapy is very useful for chronic conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis, and it can even be effective in helping treat neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. The various ways that physiotherapy can be useful are endless, and occupational therapy and physiotherapy combined have great potential for effective patient care.
To put it simply, hydrotherapy is the use of water to promote physical rehabilitation. You might have seen it referred to as water therapy or aquatic therapy, and it essentially combines the power of massage and buoyancy. The warmth and pressure from the water will relax your muscles and promote blood circulation, which can lead to faster healing.
Hydrotherapy is especially beneficial for those with chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia due to its ability to relieve joint stiffness and other painful symptoms. It may be used in conjunction with occupational therapy to help individuals regain movement in their hands and arms after an injury or surgery. People recovering from strokes often find it helpful as well, as it can help them work on regaining their balance by using floating devices while in the water.
The interplay of occupational, physio, and hydrotherapy
We’ve talked about each of these types of therapy individually, now let’s talk about how they work together. The best way to illustrate the interplay is to use an example. Let’s say a patient is seeing an OT for help with motor skills related to self-care activities after a serious injury. The physiotherapist can help this patient strengthen their muscles and joints. The hydrotherapist can then use warm water techniques to help relax tense muscles, improve their range of motion and help speed up recovery. On their own, each of these types of therapy is useful, but used together, they are extremely powerful.
They are so powerful that case studies have shown that when these three therapies are integrated into a holistic treatment program for individuals with musculoskeletal problems or neurological conditions, there is frequently a significant improvement in the patient’s quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks. This includes simple things that most people take for granted, including balance, posture control, general coordination and daily movement.
The role of the occupational therapist is important in this process as they will be the ones coordinating all three therapies together. It will be up to the OT to assess where exactly each therapy should be used in the treatment plan and in what capacity. This is yet another reason why the role of an OT is so important in helping patients achieve independence in their life.
The future of integrated therapies
There are several benefits to integrating these three therapies, and there will also be positive impacts in the future. By working together as part of an interdisciplinary team rather than independently, many things can be learned. Each practitioner can gain a new perspective that they may not have previously thought about, which can positively impact their future treatment plans.
One smart person can achieve many things, but three smart people working towards the same goal are unstoppable. It is for this reason that different disciplines working together will become more and more common in the future. This is a trend that is already taking place in many healthcare settings around the world.
Throughout this article, we have established why it is so important for different disciplines to work together, but it is equally as important for OTs to take a leading role in this process. As the trend towards more integrated therapy approaches continues to become more prevalent, OTs must arm themselves with the knowledge and understanding of all relevant therapies. This will allow them to quickly identify gaps in treatment where a different kind of therapist is needed. It is the responsibility of practitioners to lead this charge for improved care through greater collaboration between disciplines and continued research regarding best practices.