How Can Occupational Therapy Help New Amputee Patients?

Whether at work, in a traumatic event or from a random act, accidents happen; and sometimes those accidents lead to an upper extremity amputation, causing hardship to the patient. Occupational therapy is more than just recovering from carpal tunnel surgery; OT helps people heal after all kinds of injuries and illnesses of the upper extremity, bringing them to a better level of functioning. As part of it’s definition, occupational therapy focuses on enabling patients to complete activities of daily living, including tasks for work, self-care and household chores. In this post, we will be discussing how occupational therapy can help someone get back to a “new normal” after they have suffered an upper extremity amputation.

What is the therapy process like?​

During your first appointment, your occupational therapist will do an assessment of your body, discuss your needs and will walk you through what your therapy sessions will be like. They will also determine your limitations in terms of range of motion, strength, coordination, sensitivity etc. Additionally, your therapist will talk with you about prosthetic options, if you are ready for one and if you choose to get one.

In your first and the next few therapy sessions (depending on your needs), your therapist will work on scar site revision, remodeling and desensitization.  Generally, these sessions include scar massages, which help to avoid changes to your the skin’s texture and will allow it to move appropriately, and desensitization techniques to make the scar site less sensitive over time. Sometimes ultrasound machines can be used to help alter scar tissue to allow more flexibility in the scar. For more information on scar recovery, read our blog, Make Your Scars Less Noticeable Through Occupational Therapy.

Eventually, your therapist will also work with you on adapting to your prosthetic, if you choose to get one. These devices can often take months to arrive, so depending on where you are in the therapy process, a temporary splint used may be created to simulate your prosthetic. This allows you to get a sense of what tasks will feel like with the prosthetic. Once your prosthetic is ready, you will be fit for your initial device and any necessary changes will be noted to the prosthetist. From here on out, therapy sessions will be more focused on utilizing your device, rebuilding your muscles and learning new ways to complete every day tasks.

In general, amputee patients tend to have more questions related to socialization than patients who have gone through minor hand surgery. These questions and concerns about using your prosthetic in public, at home, or how your life is affected overall can be eased by your therapist.

What is Phantom Limb Pain?

Believe it or not, phantom limb pain is very real! For sufferers, they feel as though the amputated or injured limb is still there experiencing pain, even though it is not. As much as 80% of amputee patients experience phantom limb pain, which usually begins shortly after surgery. Often this pain dissipates over the first 6 months, but can last several years.

If you are an amputee patient looking for additional resources, visit the Amputee Coalition.

If you are an amputee looking for therapy services, contact any Motus location to schedule an appointment with one of our occupational therapists. While all of our therapists are certified to help you heal, Roseville Certified Hand Therapist, Tina Truhol, has an additional certification in bionic hand prosthetics.

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