Physical, Occupational & Speech/language Therapy
After a serious injury, illness or surgery, you may need to regain strength, relearn skills or find new ways of doing things. This is called rehabilitation and it typically focuses upon:
- Physical therapy to help with strength, mobility and fitness
- Occupational therapy to help with daily activities at home and work
- Speech-language therapy to help with speaking, understanding, reading, writing and swallowing
Physical therapy (PT) provides value to patients who face physical impairments, limitations, disabilities, or changes in their health status due to injury, disease or illness. Some physical therapists treat a variety of disabilities, while others specialize in specific areas such as orthopedics, sports medicine, geriatrics, neurology, or cardiology. PT services can help relieve pain, improve mobility, restore function and also aid in the prevention of future problems.
Often the process begins with a recommendation and referral from your primary care provider or specialist to the physical therapist. The therapist will review your medical history and do a thorough exam with physical tests to evaluate and measure your strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration and motor function. From this exam, a treatment plan will be discussed and the therapist will review the goals, timeframes and expected outcome. Very often treatment includes exercises to rebuild strength, flexibility, balance, range of motion and endurance. Physical therapists may consult with physicians, nurses or other specialists to coordinate care and work closely with physical therapist assistants who help them implement the treatment plan.
Occupational therapy (OT), performed by occupational therapists and occupational assistants, helps people of all ages and health conditions to better manage their everyday activities (washing, dressing, cooking, eating… as well as work and social-related skills) by improving their cognitive, physical, sensory and motor skills. Occupational therapists focus on: safety, helping achieve greater independence, creating a sense of accomplishment and quality of life. Some examples are helping children with disabilities participate more fully in school and play, assisting people who have experienced an injury or medical challenge such as a stroke, or supporting elders who are experiencing physical and/or cognitive changes.
After an evaluation, the occupational therapist and patient/family will typically partner together to set goals and priorities and develop a customized intervention plan. This may include recommendations on how to improve the home and/or work environment or the use of adaptive equipment. Occupational therapists are also trained to assist those with mental illness or emotional issues such as stress, anxiety or depression.
Speech and language therapy
Speech and language therapy is performed by speech language pathologists (SLPs) who work to prevent, diagnose and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in people of all ages.
- A speech disorder typically reflects a difficulty producing sounds correctly (such as stuttering), or experience problems with voice or resonance.
- A language disorder causes trouble understanding others or sharing thoughts, ideas or feelings in spoken or written form.
- Social communication disorders occur when there is difficulty with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. As examples, an individual with autism spectrum disorder or a traumatic brain injury may have social communication problems.
- Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning and/or problem-solving. This could occur with a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia… or it could be congenital.
- Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) may follow an illness, surgery, stroke or injury.
As with PT and OT, SLPs assess, diagnose, develop customized treatment plans based on individual needs and goals and provide ongoing monitoring to track progress or regression.