Occupational therapy is a health care profession with something to offer for a range of people with chronic or acute conditions, or those simply looking to lead a healthier life.
For those who are not familiar, occupational therapy is a form of rehabilitation that assists its patients in getting back to their most meaningful activities following an injury or disability.
The treatment uses task analysis, activity simulation, and real-life completion of activities important to the patient to increase strength, motion, and coordination.
As such, these therapists are most frequently found in hospitals, nursing homes, school systems, home health agencies, and outpatient clinics.
However, someone can also expect to see occupational therapists in less common settings such as community agencies, senior centers, and recreational facilities.
The role of occupational therapy in a community setting often looks quite different from that which is seen in hospitals and nursing homes.
Women’s health, sometimes referred to as pelvic health, is an up and coming practice area where occupational therapists can be of great use to pregnant women or women who recently gave birth, women with breast cancer, or women with menstrual diagnoses who experience pelvic pain, incontinence, swelling, or weakness of pelvic floor muscles.
Treatments often vary depending on the population and each person’s needs.
These services can assist both urine and bowel incontinence in the elderly or for women who recently gave birth.
Women’s health treatment may also be helpful to young women experiencing menstrual difficulties, including frequent pelvic pain, heavy periods, and difficulty managing hormones during a monthly cycle.
Treatments may strengthen the core and pelvic muscles, integrate healthy attachment strategies for a mother’s ability to feed and play with her baby, natural or holistic ways to assist with improving sleep, energy levels, and hormonal balance, diet recommendations, and more.
Though an occupational therapist working in women’s health may not assist with practicing daily activities, therapists do provide many exercises, recommendations, and new techniques for use during daily routines.
All of such education provided to women serves to indirectly improve participation in daily activities.
Relieving pain and the presence of other bothersome symptoms, allows women to freely and naturally engage in their daily self-care (both physical and emotional), leisure activities, social participation, and starting new relationships due to increased confidence and quality-of-life.
Certifications in pelvic floor rehabilitation, along with pelvic strengthening and biofeedback for pelvic dysfunction are just some of the credentials any therapist working in women’s health can receive.
Just as varied as some of the treatment methods used by a women’s health therapist, the setting where one can find such a therapist also ranges depending on the geographic location, the presence of existing health care facilities, and proximity of women’s health therapists to the area.
Women’s health occupational therapists may be found in assisted living facilities, community wellness centers, or in private practice at a freestanding clinic.
Many therapists in women’s health are also developing independent practices that allow for treatment within the home, as this allows for privacy and dignity often necessary for women to seek out and fully participate in this therapy.
As many treatment methods can be hands-off in nature, consisting of recommendations and formulating a plan, these therapists may even offer virtual services through online platforms which lessens the impact of proximity on receiving treatment.
Due to the range of areas where women’s health occupational therapists can be found, research and self-advocacy is important for locating and for receiving such services.
Self-advocacy can often be difficult for someone experiencing pain, an onset or increase of symptoms, and other more intimate issues associated with women’s health.
As such, this barrier can be addressed by the presence of occupational therapists in medical offices.
This is another new practice area for occupational therapists where the collaboration between physician and therapist is vital in connecting patients with the services they need.
Occupational therapy’s role in medical offices can greatly improve the visibility and reach of services in all areas, but especially in women’s health.
For example, it is often difficult for many people to express uncomfortable or personal symptoms to their doctor.
If symptoms are not verbalized, they will likely never get addressed, which makes self-advocacy important in relieving this distress.
Therefore, a patient telling their primary care physician, gynecologist, or obstetrician of their women’s health symptoms is something to be celebrated, and it is the hope this report of the symptom(s) will be addressed accordingly by the physician.
The presence of occupational therapists with a women’s health specialist can ensure the symptoms are almost immediately addressed through ways such as education, training, and a plan for follow up with the same therapist.
The union of occupational therapists and physicians can help address many health issues that often are left behind.
However, this collaboration can especially improve the frequency and the quality of treatment for those with women’s health issues.
With more of the general public learning of occupational therapy and its use for a variety of conditions, including women’s health conditions, the profession can hope to better address the needs of this population.
This will serve to improve the quality-of-life and confidence of many women who may otherwise never speak up regarding their symptoms.
Empowerment, health education, and self-advocacy are skills that can easily be passed on, furthering encouraging the wellness movement in today’s world.
For those interested in learning more about occupational therapy, either to receive services or pursue education, feel free to explore and reach out for mentoring!