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Upper Limb Prosthetic Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists: An Introduction

Upper Limb Prosthetic Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists: An Introduction
September 29, 2015
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OT and Prosthetic Rehabilitation

Before we get started, can I just have an idea by hitting your thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon how many of you are currently seeing patients who have an upper limb deficiency or who have experienced upper limb loss?  It looks like about half of you have responded and most of you are hitting the "No" button. That is going to dovetail with some of the statistics and demographics that I will be sharing with you. As occupational therapists, we provide a critical component to upper limb prosthetic rehabilitation, but yet we rarely see an individual with such amputation.

A compounding problem is that we are often unfamiliar with upper limb prosthetic technology. I do not know about you, but way back in the dark ages of time, when I attended OT school (I graduated in 1978), we had maybe one lecture on upper limb prosthetic technology. Many of the students that I see at some of the area programs around me here in western Massachusetts, they do not get much more than that either, even at this point.

The other compounding problem is that the technology is always developing. The components might be overwhelming to us as occupational therapists. For those who are younger, you have grown up with a lot of sophisticated technology. It may not be as overwhelming to you to be think about external power or some of the fancier articulated technologies. But to those of us who have been in practice, it might be a little overwhelming. The bottom line here is that specialty training is beneficial for us as occupational therapists.

What Can We Do?

What does prosthetic rehabilitation involve? It goes beyond the basics of preparing the residual limb and the actual prosthetic training of opening and closing a terminal device. It also includes aspects of adjustment and teaching compensatory or accommodating strategies so that our patients can be successful in their lives. Our goals as occupational therapists always pertain to maximizing functional independence. We need to consider this as we look at specific tasks at hand, specific motor skills, positioning, and posturing of our clients. All of this works together to help us accelerate the rehabilitation process for our patients, and it is essential to our patients' success in achieving functional independence and perceiving a high and positive quality of life.



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