How Can Occupational Therapy Help MS?

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If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you know it can be frustrating dealing with its many symptoms. This is especially true when they prevent you from participating in activities you enjoy or need to accomplish. Although you can’t control everything about your disease, you can control your response to it. Don’t sit by and let MS keep you from living a full, normal life.

One way to overcome MS-related limitations is through occupational therapy. An occupational therapist (OT) focuses on helping you better perform activities of daily living, like dressing and bathing. He or she prepares you to carry out work or other productive activities, whether it’s learning new ways to navigate your kitchen or helping you comfortably perform your job. An OT also helps you find ways to participate in pleasurable activities.

Putting You in the Driver’s Seat

When you begin occupational therapy, your OT doesn’t have a set of objectives for you to achieve. As the patient, you set the goals for therapy. Your OT will talk with you about the things you’re concerned about doing—the work you need to perform, the activities you enjoy, and much more. This helps identify how occupational therapy can most benefit you.

Once you’ve identified areas of concern, your OT will evaluate the obstacles that may be preventing you from doing those things. These may be personal factors, such as strength, balance, or memory issues. They may involve environmental factors, such as safety hazards in the home.

With this information, the OT can create a plan of care to help you accomplish your goals. Perhaps you want to continue working at a job that currently causes you fatigue. Or perhaps you recently transitioned to a wheelchair and want to learn how to bathe yourself. The goals of occupational therapy are different for each person.  

What to Expect from Treatment

Because occupational therapy goals vary so widely, so, too, can treatment. Some treatment options include learning strategies or techniques to conserve energy or perform activities in a different way. Your OT may train you on how to use assistive devices, such as a walker or a shower grab bar. He or she may also make modifications to your home or workplace that can make tasks easier.

Whatever your occupational therapy entails, taking advantage of all it has to offer is important. You may be tempted to take care of things by yourself.  The truth is that occupational therapy can help you maintain your independence, keep you safe, and help you achieve your goals. To get started, ask your health care provider for a referral.

Key Takeaways

  • Occupational therapy can help keep you active with MS.

  • You set the goals you’d like to achieve through your therapy.

  • An occupational therapist helps you learn new ways to do everyday tasks, such as bathing, cooking, or comfortably performing your job.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 30

  1. The Role of Rehabilitation in Managing MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

  2. Occupational Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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