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What is Occupational Therapy?

The word “Occupation” can be confusing. “Occupation” refers to everything that people do during the course of their everyday life. This can include anything from getting in and out of bed, making breakfast, grocery shopping, playing recreational activities, to holding down full-time employment.  Occupational therapists (OTs) are health care professionals who help people get back to doing their everyday activities.

Occupational Therapy in Concussion Rehabilitation

Typically concussion symptoms improve in 7-10 days. When those symptoms last longer than that, it is called Post-concussion syndrome (PCS).

OTs can help people with post-concussion syndrome develop strategies to manage their symptoms and gradually return to their previous activities at home and in the community; including return to work or school. Here are some of the ways OTs can help:

  1. Physical symptoms like pain, headaches, noise sensitivity, and sleep disturbance.
    • Education around proper body mechanics during everyday tasks, including ergonomic desk set up, proper desk posture and healthy sleep posture.
    • Use of earplugs or filters
    • Scheduling “brain” breaks by removing oneself for 5-10 minutes to rest
    • Education on developing good sleep habits and routines
  1. Cognitive (thinking) symptoms can be things like decreased concentration, difficulties multitasking, memory problems, and mental fatigue.
    • Education on pacing, energy conservation and scheduling daily activities
    • Use memory aids/planners/lists etc. to remember appointments, keep organized, and plan and prioritize your daily activities
    • Learn useful tips on improving attention in everyday activities, such as reducing noise and other distractions, doing one task at a time etc.
    • Guidance and support around graduated return to school or work planning. OTs work with teachers or employers to ensure successful return to learn or work
  1. Visual changes like light sensitivity, blurred vision, difficulties reading or scrolling on a computer screen.
    • Alter lighting or use task lighting
    • Education on media and computer use, including limiting time on the computer or device, reducing brightness of computer screen, enlarging the font size, using software like Google Read and Write to assist with reading emails
    • OTs often work with a Neuro Optometrist’s recommendations around reading etc. to help manage these symptoms
  1. Emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depressed mood, irritability and poor frustration tolerance.
    • Stress and relaxation techniques, including dealing with anxiety and worry thoughts
    • Work with Psychologists/Psychotherapists to manage these symptoms

Together an OT and you can work in getting back to sport, school, work, and your social life after a concussion.

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