My First Occupational Therapy Session

I’ve already written about starting physical therapy here, and I figured that I should start writing about my visits to an occupational therapist, what I’ve learned, and any advice that I can give to you based on what I’ve experienced.

So here you are: full blown, no holds barred; this is what goes down when you break your neck and you need to start using your dominant hand for something other than a prop when you need to carry something.

Today I met with an occupational therapist for the first time since the accident. Because my brace is off, I’ve been cleared to lift weights up to thirty pounds with my upper body, and as much as seems reasonable and appropriate with my lower body.

I visited an occupational therapist for my hand and arm. Even now, I’m still confused about the difference between an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. Maybe some knowledgable souls can help me out by posting their answer to that question in the comments below.

Before the actual screening process even began, I s run through the usual medical history questionnaire, along with a full set of upper body strength and range of motion tests. Between all of the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals that I’ve had to visit, one of the few things in common between them all is the strength and range of motion test. By now, I practically have that thing memorized. I might have even had a dream where I was taking a range of motion test! Haha

The occupational therapist, who is often just referred to as an “OT”, helped me out by screening through what issues I should be worrying about and what will just take time to recover from. After eliminating things like fatigue and some soreness in my muscles in my neck that I haven’t used since my anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (ACDF) as simply caused by not being used to using the muscles, we moved on to range of motion and deep pain.

The OT massaged out some of the small, stabilizing muscles in my neck and then had me do some exercises to work them out and increase the up and down range that my head could travel. Before doing any exercise, he measured the exact degree of my range of motion, and then the degree at which I could move afterwords. Consistently, my range of motion was always increased by at least 10 degrees, if not more.

After stretching me out and checking my nerve function and assuring me that I was recovering at a normal rate and telling me that I’m recovering faster than most people do after an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion (I would ha used the acronym there to save time, but for some reason my OT would always call the surgery by it’s full name. He was fine with being called an OT instead of an occupational therapist though, for some reason), he gave me a packet of things that I’m supposed to do, and also told me how often I’m supposed to do each one. After the appointment, I bought a Home Ranger Shoulder Pulley (model 240) to help me do passive range of motion exercises. I think the pulley is great and already after a few uses I feel my should and arm loosening up.

In my case, my range of motion is better when I’m not engaging the muscles in my arm or shoulder, so using the pulley helps me stretch out. Then, I do the same exercises that I had done passively and assist with my left arm, helping my muscles and nerve relearn where to go and how to feel. I could go on; but I think that a full on review might have to wait for a separate post. Maybe I’ll set up an amazon affiliate account, and if you want to buy a pulley after reading my review of it, you can get the same low price that you would always get on amazon, and help support my site, my tours, my message, and my fundraising all at the same time.

Anyways, my first meeting with an occupational therapist went great. My occupational therapist is smart, efficient, and professional, all without losing that personal touch and feel. If you’re nervous about your rehabilitation you shouldn’t be, because you’ll have a great physical or occupational therapist helping you out.

Why You Should Focus on Improvement

Often, I feel broken down emotionally as well as physically. The difference in fitness between where I was, where I am now, and where I would like to be, general fatigue, and the day to day struggles that I and everyone else most assuredly face all conspire to keep me from feeling my best. I deal with this by focusing on how much I’ve improved, not how far I have to go.

Instead of picking a goal that seems at times unattainable, make note of how much stronger, faster, and more energetic you are each week that you train. With my focus on improvement instead of my failures and my weaknesses, I feel encouraged to continue on and to work harder than ever.

At the end of the week, I take a moment to reflect and think to myself “Wow. I’ve done things that a week, two weeks, even two days ago would have seemed improbably difficult. I’m amazed at how quick the human body can recover and improve.”. Right now, I feel like writing down what I’ve done, my plans, and setting goals for myself. All of this, because I focus on improvement.

Success Stories

Before I begin this post, I just want to let everyone know that I took the story from SpinalCordRecovery.org, the website of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. All credit is due to them and their writers, and if you’d like to learn more and visit their general site, click here.

Success Stories

The International Center for Spinal Cord Injury offers more than just the hope of recovery from what was once thought to be an irreversible and life altering injury. Through the use of Activity Based Restorative Therapies (RT) great promise has been shown helping adults and children with chronic spinal cord injuries recover sensation, movement, independence, and overall improved quality of life even many months or years after an injury.

Santa Marie Wallace

Despite her disability, Santa Marie Wallace finished her BA in May 2011 and is currently pursuing her MA in Disability Policy while working part-time. Although her C3-C5 incomplete spinal cord injury and limitations of movement caused her body to be stiff as a board at first, her muscles are now being re-educated through activity-based restorative therapy at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury. The innovative, aggressive nature of treatment has augmented her flexibility and movement. Santa continues to make strides in strength and recovery of function. She is able to stand from her wheelchair and walk limited distances using a rolling walker, something doctors told her she would never do.

Patrick Rummerfield

Patrick Rummerfield lives a life that can only be deemed miraculous. A 1974 car accident left Pat with little hope of survival. Today, this triathlete, racecar driver and motivational speaker spends each day ensuring that he makes the most of his body’s renewed power. As the world’s first fully functional spinal cord injury quadraplegic, Pat is living proof that with the right combination of quality medical care, intensive physical therapy and personal will, recovery from devastating injuries is possible.

Lily Wilkinson

Lily was just three when her neck was broken in an automobile accident. A moment of folding metal, and her new life appeared etched in stone before she had ever entered kindergarten. After months of intensive care, her parents were told she would never be able to use or feel her legs again.

Matt Courson

Matt climbed on his four-wheeler to make the short trip to visit a friend. He never made it. He can’t remember much about the ride, but he knows he went over a 20-foot embankment. When he came to after the crash, he couldn’t move.

MacKenzie Clare

MacKenzie was just ten years old and looking forward to a day of fun at Port Discovery in Baltimore with her parents and two friends on April 2, 2005. That rainy day took a different turn when a pick-up truck traveling on the opposite side of the highway lost control and veered into their lane, hitting their car, and injuring all five occupants.

Van Brooks

“I remember everything,” Brooks said the other day. “I remember making the tackle. I remember laying there and not being able to feel anything. I remember talking to the trainer, who was asking me different questions. I remember getting into an ambulance. They cut all my equipment off, then they waited for the MedEvac [medical helicopter] to come. They transferred me to the MedEvac. I remember the ride down to Shock Trauma, but once I landed at Shock Trauma, I don’t remember anything.”

Loretta McRae

In the months since the 15-year-old struck her head on an ocean sandbar in Australia, sustaining a C6-level spinal cord injury, virtually every expert said she’s already gotten her miracle. She was alive, she could wiggle her toes, she was regaing sensation in her limbs. But she would probably need to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.