Overview of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation refers to treatments intended to facilitate a patient’s physical, sensory and mental abilities to recover from injury, sickness or disease to a previous usual state of health as possible. The treatment modalities aim to restore function lost due to their infirmity. Rehabilitation treats may types of disabled conditions such as amputations, arthritis, neurological deficits, orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, stroke and traumatic brain damage, to name a few. The Institute of Medicine reports that as many as 14% of American may be disabled at any given time and could benefit from Rehabilitation.

Types of Rehabilitation Services

Rehabilitation focuses on using the services of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dietary therapy, and psychological counseling. A patient’s treatment plan may involve just one service or multiple services depending upon the needs of the individual. Consequently, the type of therapy and goals of therapy vary for different patients and therapy plans are devised specific to each individual.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy assists the patient to reestablish the use of skeletal functions including the bones, muscles, and the nervous system. The therapist aims to improve strength, mobility, flexibility, endurance, coordination, balance and fitness. These professionals employ a variety of modalities (techniques) to bring back function, recover mobility and prevent or reduce permanent physical disabilities. The physical therapist evaluates an individual and takes into consideration their various body types, diverse patterns of movement, distinct alignments and dissimilar habits in planning a specific plan of care for each person.
Physical modalities utilized to help reduce pain and swelling includes heat, cold, water, ultrasound and electrical stimulation. Your physical therapist in conjunction with your doctor decides on the best treatments for your condition. In parallel to your physical modalities, an exercise program helps your overall function. Exercises may encompass stretching, walking, weight lifting, balance training, strengthening exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning to name a few.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy aims to re-establish skills for activities of daily living. Daily activities encompass tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, combing hair, feeding self or dressing. For example, an older individual recovering from a stroke may need to be re-taught how to feed, bathe and re-dress themselves. Unlike other professionals, occupational therapists assist individuals to perform activities in all of their environments (home, school or community). For example, a wheelchair bound patient may need a ramp placed over steps into their home, a door widened to access the bathroom or bars placed above the bathtub to assist transfers in and out of the tub.
Occupational therapy services may encompass assessment of a person’s home, suggestions for adaptive equipment (braces, reach tools, assistive devices) and how to use the adaptive devices, education on modifying task to independently perform the activity or to conserve energy (chronic condition fatigue), and incorporate techniques in daily life to deal with symptoms of underlying disease.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy promotes activities to help with talking, communicating to understand, reading, and swallowing. The speech therapist deals with a broad range of speech defects and disorders, from using the results of an x-ray swallow test to determine the best form of food to give a stroke patient to teaching someone after cleft palate repair surgery to speak. Speech, language and swallowing disorders arise from an assortment of conditions, such as brain injury, cleft palate, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, hearing loss, or stroke.

Dietary Therapy

Dietitians help on specific cases to create diet plans to meet the needs of individuals requiring nutritional assistance. Health professionals not too infrequently overlook the nutrition needs among all the other needs of a patient, but research demonstrates a direct relationship between adequate nutrition and better physical health. Adequate nutrition speeds up the process of repairing damaged cells in the body and creating endorphins. Endorphins are those substances in our body that help reduce pain and stress.
Ranging from undernourished people with debilitation of the entire body to individuals exhibiting complications of obesity, the dietitian must provide a diversity of diet plans and education. Individuals with minimal bowel function, lost from accident injuries, disease or surgery, require intense nutrition education about oral rehydration solutions, techniques using tube feedings and altered routes to take their medications. The significance of the dietitian role, becomes very apparent when using a holistic approach to view the patient.

Psychological Counseling

Psychologist in the rehabilitation situation establish a relationship with patients suffering from body image alterations, depression, anger management, and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. Individuals encounter difficult times with their emotions when faced with major life changing illness.
Individuals in rehabilitation may encounter limited social participation due to their health conditions or physical disabilities. Altered health and disabilities can influence the numerous aspects of a person’s life. Psychologist provide therapeutic support, advocacy and collaborate with other members of the health team taking care of a patient.