April is Occupational Therapy Month, the perfect time to learn more about what occupational therapy (OT) is and how it has helped countless patients return to their normal lives. We’re celebrating this month by sharing information about occupational therapy along with an interview from three of Cary Orthopaedics’ occupational therapists.

Occupational therapy practitioners use assessment and intervention to enable people of all ages to develop, recover and maintain meaningful activities – or occupations – in order to lead independent and productive lives. Occupational therapy differs from physical therapy in that it helps those who have lost function or have limited function to perform essential actions such as eating, dressing, work and school activities.

Cary Ortho’s occupational therapists share insights

What type of patients do you treat?

Melissa Clark, OTR/L, CHT: We see the majority of our patients post operatively. The diagnoses vary but are usually post op due to trauma (tendon laceration/repairs, fracture care).  We also see a large population of post-op patients for arthritic changes such as joint replacement.

Meaghan Thomas, COTA: I specialize in hand/upper extremity diagnoses and treatment.

Christina Buffington, OTR/L, CHT: OTs are licensed to practice in specialty areas such as general rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, work hardening, orthopedics, pediatrics, geriatrics or hand therapy. Here at Cary Orthopaedics, the OTs are certified to work in the specialty area of outpatient hand therapy treating primarily Orthopaedic conditions

How does occupational therapy help patients get back to everyday life?

Clark: We focus on helping patients regain range of motion, strength and functional use of their extremity, which will allow them to return to their prior level of function. Treatment is always tailored to the individual. Are they an athlete? A gardener? A business professional? We evaluate the overall needs of the patient and tailor their plan of care accordingly.

Buffington: OTs focus on life skills such as regaining independence for activities of daily living through evaluation and the development of a treatment plan. This may include pain reduction, massage techniques, strengthening, range of motion, regaining fine and gross motors skills, orthotic fitting or neurological and sensory re-education. We also specialize in providing the necessary adaptive equipment to promote independence with functional tasks and daily living skills. An essential part of the healing process is returning to activities that you find meaningful in life which can be challenging after an injury.

Why did you become an occupational therapist?

Thomas: I liked how OT helps treat a person as a whole and encourages patients to return to full independence and to resume the activities they enjoy most.

Clark: I chose to be an OT because I enjoy working with the public. I enjoy the challenge of the upper extremity, its complexity and making custom orthotics.

Buffington: I chose to become an OT because of the wide range of areas you can provide services to. I find it rewarding to see the results following the treatment program and to provide patients with the ability to return to work, leisure activities or sports independently

What is your favorite aspect of being an occupational therapist?

Clark: Developing patient rapport and seeing the patient progress over the course of their therapy and how if affects their life. I also enjoy working directly with the doctors and surgeons, which provides the opportunity for continued growth and challenge.

Thomas: I enjoy helping and allowing patients to return to important and meaningful tasks in their everyday lives.

Buffington: Watching patients improve over the course of their rehabilitation to achieve their goals following surgery or an injury.

In your words, why should a patient get occupational therapy at Cary Orthopaedics vs. other practices?

Clark: Our team at Cary Ortho sets us apart from other clinics. We have an excellent occupational therapy program. How our patients experience and interact with all staff from the moment they first walk in until they leave the clinic makes Cary Ortho exceptional.

Thomas: We offer specialized care with the goal of the patient recovering from injury/surgery with experienced hand specialists.

Buffington: Cary Orthopaedics is a great place to receive OT services due to the OTs working closely with the physicians to achieve functional outcomes. We provide soft-tissue mobilization therapy, splinting, exercise therapy and adaptive equipment training unique to each individual’s needs.

Expert occupational therapy in the Triangle

Hopefully you’ll never need to see an occupational therapist, but should you sustain an orthopaedic injury that prevents you from performing your daily routine, Cary Orthopaedics is a great place to turn. Our OT specialists help patients learn new ways to move and regain strength so they can return to school, work and everyday life.

Occupational therapy is part of Cary Orthopaedics Physical Therapy department. Contact us to make an appointment.