This week we are bringing you some information about occupational therapy (OT) and our two main counterpart-therapies, Speech Therapy (aka Speech Language Pathology) and Physical Therapy (PT). In today’s blog, we will talk about what each discipline is and how they help people with stroke. In part two, we will talk about how we all work together with our clients and caregivers to ensure we provide holistic care.
Physical therapists work to restore your strength, balance, and mobility after an injury or illness. These skills are very important for daily functioning and safety! After a stroke, a person often presents with hemiplegia, or paralysis of one side of their body (arm and leg). PTs often help individuals restore their motor control or their ability to move their impaired limb. Despite common belief, PTs can work with both the lower and upper limbs. Usually, after a stroke, a person may have difficulty walking, impaired balance, difficulty knowing where their body is in space, and challenges moving their limbs where they want them to go. PTs help people get back into their body and learn how to move in a safe and functional way so they can return to their daily activities. PTs are a HUGE foundational piece in a person’s stroke recovery journey.
Speech Language Pathologists or SLPs help people restore their ability to speak AND chew and swallow after an injury or illness. After a stroke, a person might have difficulty speaking due to paralysis of muscles in the face and/or mouth. Speaking may also be a challenge due to damage to the part of the brain that produces speech or understands language. SLPs also help people recover their cognition or compensate for cognitive challenges after a stroke. Additionally, having a stroke can impair a person’s ability to chew and/or swallow due to paralysis of musculature and/or difficulty motor planning or performing the sequences of unconscious movements required to swallow. SLPs help people learn to communicate again, safely swallow, and address cognitive impairments. SLPs are another HUGE part of stroke recovery.
Occupational therapists, or OTs, help people recover their functional skills after a stroke by assisting them in improving the motor control of their weak (hemiparetic) side and teaching them strategies for accomplishing daily functional tasks. OTs work on the whole body and on a very wide variety of skills that occur in your daily life. OTs can help you regain the skills to grasp your toothbrush again so you can brush your teeth - helping both to recover a grasp pattern that you can use for various other tasks AND teaching you strategies to engage in the functional task of brushing your teeth on your own again. A lot of times, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and OTs help you recover those skills after a stroke. The smallest goals are really the biggest victories for a person recovering from stroke. Your OT will celebrate each one with you along the way, making them another HUGE component of stroke recovery.
Lastly, the most important members of the rehabilitation team: the stroke survivor, care partners, and loved ones. As therapists, we can educate and train with all of the information we have, but it’s up to the individual and their support system to carry it over and put the plan into action. The more work and effort someone can put into their recovery, the better their outcome will be. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to yourself and your recovery!
Now you know a little more about how PTs, SLPs, and OTs help people recover after a stroke. Each discipline is an integral part of the stroke recovery process, along with the stroke survivor themselves and their wonderful support system. There are many other types of therapies that can help people recovering from an illness or injury so we want to give a shout out to: respiratory therapists, music therapists, recreation therapists, mental health counselors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and countless more that were not mentioned.
This week, say THANK YOU to your rehab team and pat yourself on the back for being the biggest part of your own recovery.