Occupational therapy for SLE
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Patients are often the best source of information about the pattern - the ups and downs- they encounter with their disease.
Most lupus patients expect to eventually lead normal lives. Unfortunately, unpredictable periods of fatigue and depression are common even in mild cases.
Patients should try to balance exercise and rest. Flares of disease require rest, including daytime naps. Too much rest, though, can cause loss of muscle mass and muscle tone. A physical and/or occupational therapist can often be helpful in teaching the patient a proper exercise program.
A program of physical and occupational therapy include:
- range of motion exercises
- strengthening exercises
- joint protection strategies.
The ultimate goal of an occupational therapist is to help the patient become functionally independent with activities of daily living (ADLs), as well as in the use of self-management strategies.
An ADL inventory may be done to determine what life areas require interventions. Goal-setting is a frequently used tool.
The OT can help the client to develop a "flare" plan. This intervention helps the individual maintain a sense of control when a flare occurs.
The stress of a chronic illness such as SLE will require the OT to educate the patient in stress reduction techniques. These include: relaxation techniques (guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation); exercises; work simplification; and energy conservation strategies.
The occupational therapist addresses issues related to fatigue, pain, strength, and other issues. This can be accomplished by developing an exercise program tailored to the needs of the individual. An exercise program is important for four reasons: reverses deconditioning; maintains physical function for ADLs; improves general fitness; and improves factors related to quality of life.
The occupational therapist also can provide strategies for work and home.
The major benefit of occupational therapy for the patient with SLE is that he or she regains a sense of control over the disease.
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