4 Most Common Occupational Therapy Assessments

4 Most Common Occupational Therapy Assessments

If you’ve ever worked with an occupational therapist following an injury, then you know that ongoing assessments are central to their ability to measure your improvements.

Every step of the way, the therapist assesses the patient’s progress using various techniques to evaluate changes in their strength, flexibility, range of movement, and ability to complete basic day-to-day functions.

As every patient is unique, making a full recovery from operations, injuries, and chronic conditions will require periodic testing and evaluations, starting with their very first occupational therapy (OT) session. If you’ve been prescribed OT and are wondering what to expect, here are some of the tools and evaluation techniques your therapist may use to measure your improvement – and help you achieve maximum functionality in work and in life.

1. Assessments of Patient’s Range of Motion

A broken wrist, tendonitis, or other upper extremity ailments can cause severe limitations in the range of motion of the joints in your hand. Therefore, one of the most common devices used in OT is the goniometer, a digital angle measuring tool. Occupational therapists often use the goniometer to measure the range of motion in a person’s affected finger joints to determine how constricted their movement is, whether due to inflammation, pain, or other medical issues.

Goniometry of the shoulder, elbow, and forearm can also be used to evaluate injuries in those areas. Comparing the results in subsequent sessions lets the therapist know how many degrees of range of motion have been recovered from one week to the next, and how much improvement still remains. Not only is it essential to know if you’re improving enough to return to your routine activities, but it also helps them adjust activities in your OT appointments accordingly.

In an OT session, your therapist may:

  • Ask you to perform certain movements
  • Watch for differences in movements between the two sides of your body
  • Evaluate your ability to perform a full range of motion
  • Assess impaired movements using passive range of motion (PROM), meaning you make no effort to move your joint
  • Clarify whether any limitations stem from a joint issue or muscle weakness
  • Further assess any inability to fully perform a particular movement

2. Strength Evaluations of Injuries in OT

Your therapist will likely want to measure your strength to assess any muscle weakness related to an injury. This typically requires isolating the area so you’re only using a certain set of muscles. Your therapist will calculate your scores to compare your progress between sessions.

Because hand and arm injuries often impact grip strength, therapists often measure the strength of a patient’s grip using a hand-held dynamometer. This requires you to squeeze the dynamometer using all of your strength, in succession, usually alternating hands for comparison. If you’ve gained strength in your hand and forearm, your muscles will be able to contract and provide resistance. Once you’ve exerted maximum resistance, that means your muscle is no longer able to maintain the contraction.

3. Verbal Assessments Important in OT

The therapist/patient relationship relies on a fair amount of communication regarding your progress and daily activities. In the initial assessment, you and your therapist will typically discuss any difficulties you have when attempting to complete routine activities. Because OT takes on a broad range of forms, topics of discussion may include personal issues, household tasks, work activities, limitations with mobility you’ve noticed, and any other life activity you need help regaining.

As with physical therapy, in occupational therapy the goal is to measure specific advancements you make as your complete your treatment plan. Not only will your therapist question you about your improvements and areas where you’re still experiencing symptoms, but you can expect to complete some surveys, as well. These often take a whole-body view, providing a more general idea of what your physical abilities are before starting therapy and once you’ve completed your sessions.

4. Alternative Patient Planning Assessments

Occupational therapy is a complex area of healthcare, one used to treat countless injuries and ailments, some of which follow surgeries that require time away from work or home. Fortunately, for patients in the Occupational Therapy program at MidAmerica Orthopaedics, every element of their treatment plan can take place under one roof. The activities in each session will be tailored to address your specific needs and then adjusted when necessary. This area of therapy can be used for various types of assessment, such as:

  1. Post-surgery home preparation – to assess a patient’s need for adaptive equipment and recommend any modifications necessary for their safety when returning home after a hospitalization.
  2. Return-to-work planning – to coordinate with your employer to develop a plan that will help you return to your role at work. 
  3. Ergonomic evaluations – to help create a healthier workstation and improve ongoing symptoms and prevent future injuries.
  4. Cognitive rehabilitation – to assist patients recovering from a concussion by evaluating their memory, ability to focus, and executive function.

The team of OT experts at MidAmerica are specialized in conditions ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and arthritis to concussion-related issues. To request an Independent Medical Evaluation, please fill out our convenient online form. If you have any questions about receiving OT treatment, contact us today!

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