Karen Landry is a lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She specializes in hand injuries. We asked Karen about different types of therapy, and the emotional effects of personal injury.
Most people have heard of Physiotherapy, often to treat sports injuries. Occupational therapists assess your ability to return to work, then make a plan and schedule. They’re trained in ergonomics and other techniques to measure and assess your physical requirements at work and at home. Physiotherapists and Occupational therapists often work together.
“A lot of what I see is acute care, in the early stages after an operation”, says Karen.
Many personal injury victims are surprised by the length of time required to get over their injuries. A broken wrist, for example, will be in a cast while the bone mends. But your muscles become weak because you haven’t used them, and other joints become stiff (which can also be painful), so therapy time is required for these “secondary” issues. A broken leg can be in a cast for 6 to 8 weeks, and then requires physiotherapy sessions to regain mobility, so several months can be required in total.
Some people feel like they can return to work, but really their body is out of condition. It actually requires a lot of energy to get up early, commute, put in a day’s work, drive home and do housework. An “Ease Back to Work” program needs you, your employer, therapists and physician to be on board, and the insurance company needs to be in the loop.
Occupational therapists plan and schedule a return to work with modified hours or duties. What kind of work you’re able to do is a big factor: for example, maybe you can work at a desk with one leg elevated until it heals fully. But if you damaged your wrist, working at a computer might not be advisable for a while.
Another aspect of your personal injury beyond your physical condition is the emotional issues. People’s fear of the unknown causes them to feel distress. There are many questions and worries: How long will treatment take? Will it be quick? Will there be complications?
Financial worries are distressing, especially in families where the injured person is the only income earner. When will I be able to return to work? Is the work piling up while I’m away? Will I be as efficient as I was before? Will the quality of my work suffer? Some people worry about their co-workers: Will they be able to carry my workload while I’m away? Will this injury and my time away from work affect their opinion of me?
Family life can also be a challenge while you’re off work. Being around the house all day affects your relationship with your spouse, children and other household members.
Occupational therapists consider these “home” concerns as well as your “work” therapy, consulting with your doctor and other therapists to determine what therapy you require, when you can return to work and the type of work you’ll be able to do when you return. To learn more, check the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists website http://www.caot.ca/index.asp
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