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HER HEALTH: Leading a better life through occupational therapy

by Jessie Huber, OTR/L | March 15, 2023 at 10:01 a.m.
Jessie Huber, OTR/L, is the Lead Occupational Therapist for inpatient rehabilitation at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Jefferson City.

What does living a better life look like? Good health is strongly linked to living your best life and a key component to good health is staying active. Sometimes life throws you challenges; such as surgery, arthritis, a stroke, or a disability that seems to restrict your activity level. Don’t let a  setback keep you from being your healthiest self. Therapy can help you reach your full potential and improve your quality of life despite life’s challenges. Occupational Therapy (OT) helps improve your strength and endurance for better health and independence. Occupational  Therapists analyze movement and cognitive requirements of activities and implement safe exercises to build on the individual’s current ability.  

Focusing on endurance, range of motion and strength is crucial to building and maintaining good health for everyone. Progress is best accomplished gradually and with proper body positioning. If you are recovering from a surgery or injury, an OT can assess and guide your exercise regime. A therapist may stimulate the performance of a motion or utilize adaptive equipment to support movements. They may also teach you compensatory prevention techniques designed to prevent loss of strength in order to allow for some movement while dealing with an injury or pain. When one muscle is weak, the opposite muscle might become too tight, causing pain. Sometimes a patient will compensate movement to reduce pain and this compensation may lead to a greater injury to the body. An injury may also lead to a reduced activity level, negatively impacting your health. Proper OT exercises can help improve joint weakness and keep you moving.  

OTs address cognition in relation to functional necessity. They assess what cognitive skills are required to perform various activities and guide individuals in progressive steps toward improvement. With most health diagnoses, the sooner an individual receives therapy to minimize reduction in activity, the better. The bottom line is, it is important to keep moving to reach your full potential, no matter what. 

Everyone needs physical activity to stay healthy. Focus on activities you CAN do. Consider ways you might integrate activity into your daily life.  

Way to integrate activity into your daily routine: 

• Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. 

• Do calf raises while blow-drying your hair.

• Walk indoors or outdoors while on a phone call. 

• Use a standing desk for computer time at work or home. 

• Park further away from entrances. 

• Do leg lifts while sitting in a chair or on the couch. 

• Take the stairs. 

• Sit on an exercise ball. 

• Do stretches as soon as you get out of bed. 

• Do arm circles, neck circles, ankle circles, and shoulder rolls during TV commercials. 

The more you maximize the activity you do, the fewer limitations you will have. As you increase your activity level, your overall health and well-being will improve! Good health leads to greater happiness and life satisfaction. So, get moving to live a better life! 

Jessie Huber, OTR/L, is the Lead Occupational Therapist for inpatient rehabilitation at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Jefferson City. 


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