Healthy Lifestyle

What is occupational therapy for common health conditions?

Young female occupational therapist is moving senior woman’s arm during therapy


Occupational therapy can help improve how you complete daily activities after an illness, injury or surgery. Here are five specialized therapies at Nuvance Health.

By Occupational Therapists, Nuvance Health

You have probably heard the terms physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) used interchangeably. While these types of rehabilitation can complement each other, they have unique purposes for different types of health conditions.

Here are types of OT for lymphedema, driving rehabilitation, hand therapy, neurological conditions and low vision.

What is occupational therapy?  

After an illness, injury or surgery, you may need OT to regain strength, flexibility and balance. Occupational therapists can help you improve how you perform daily activities, such as taking a shower and tying your shoes. Your occupational therapist’s main goal is to help you maintain your independence, safety and quality of life.

Request an appointment with a licensed occupational therapist near me. 

What is occupational therapy for lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid that can cause swelling, most commonly in the arms, legs or breasts. Lymphedema usually is a side effect from lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment or surgery. To help, decongestive therapy uses manual lymph drainage, compression garment fitting or exercise.

Learn more about occupational therapy at Nuvance Health.


Beena Thomas, lymphedema occupational therapist at Nuvance Health
Beena Thomas, Lymphedema Occupational Therapist


What is occupational therapy for driver rehabilitation?

If you have a disability or medical condition that affects your ability to drive safely, a driver rehabilitation program may be able to help. An OT who is a driver rehabilitation specialist will evaluate you during a two-part assessment of your clinical abilities and driving. You will perform a behind-the-wheel driving exam in a specially equipped vehicle with dual brake controls.

After completing the evaluation, your OT will provide recommendations to you and your referring physician. They may also help you learn how to use adaptive driving equipment like left-hand controls, a spinner knob on the steering wheel or a left-foot accelerator.


Kim Puffer Wranovics, driver rehabilitation specialist at Nuvance Health
Kim Puffer Wranovics, Driver Rehabilitation Specialist


What is occupational therapy for hand therapy?

Don’t let the name fool you. A certified hand therapist works on the shoulder, elbow and forearm as well as the wrist and hand. You may benefit from seeing a hand therapist if you have a serious fracture, tendonitis, Carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage, joint replacements or trigger finger. Your doctor may recommend you try therapy first to avoid more invasive treatments such as surgery. Therapy may also help you recover after surgery on your arm or hand. Your hand therapist will work with you so you can return to your normal daily activities.

Learn more about when to see a hand therapist.


Conor O’Brien, certified hand therapist at Nuvance Health
Conor O’Brien, Certified Hand Therapist


What is occupational therapy for neurological conditions?

Neurological occupational therapists have special training to help you recover from a brain injury or stroke, or manage a progressive disorder such as Parkinson’s disease. Your therapist will evaluate you to determine your strengths and weaknesses and how they affect your daily activities. 

Depending on your evaluation, you may work on developing motor skills used for self-care activities and meal preparation; cognitive skills by practicing complex activities; and vocational activities such as return to work. 

Your therapist may recommend interventions to modify the way you perform a task or adapt to the environment. They may also teach you new skills based on your capabilities or help regain old skills to maximize your quality of life.


Jessica Bannerman, occupational therapist at Nuvance Health
Jessica Bannerman, Occupational Therapist

What is occupational therapy for low vision? 

Some specialized occupational therapists assist individuals with vision issues that ordinary glasses or contacts correct. You may benefit from low vision therapy if you have macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, or had a stroke or brain injury that affected your eyesight. 

Your therapist may help you with environmental and home modifications. For example, they may suggest that you use corrective devices and visual technology or specialized functional training. Individuals with visual changes after a stroke or brain injury may learn to adapt to or correct double vision, visual field deficits or impaired visual perception. 


Hannah Landon, occupational therapist at Nuvance Health
Hannah Landon, Occupational Therapist

The bottom line: If you are having trouble with daily activities after an illness, injury or surgery, occupational therapy may help you maintain your independence and quality of life. Learn more about specialized therapies at Nuvance Health.