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How Occupational Therapy Can Help With MS

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2023

Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of therapy that helps people relearn the skills they need to perform everyday activities. OT is used to help people recovering from an illness or injury, or those living with a chronic condition like multiple sclerosis (MS).1,2

Occupational therapists help you regain strength, coordination, and flexibility. They also teach you new ways to complete everyday tasks, like getting dressed or cooking a meal. OT can help people of all ages, from infants to seniors.1,2

How does OT help with multiple sclerosis?

When you have MS, you may sometimes need help with tasks that most of us take for granted. These tasks might include taking a shower or brushing your teeth. That's where occupational therapy comes in. The goal of OT is to help you maintain the skills you need for independent living and productivity, both at home and at work.1

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OT can address:1

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog and memory problems
  • Upper body strength and coordination
  • Using assistive devices like canes and walkers

Your occupational therapist will work closely with other members of your care team. Together, they will develop a treatment plan just for you. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor about OT. It could make all the difference in your quality of life.1

What can you expect from OT?

Your doctor can give you a referral for OT. The first step is to figure out which activities you have trouble completing and want to be able to do again. The therapist will also look at what might be restricting or limiting you. From there, they will develop a plan to help you meet your goals.1

Occupational therapists can help you in a number of ways. These include:1

  • Teaching energy-saving methods – Fatigue is common in MS. Learning how to pace yourself and conserve energy throughout the day can help.
  • Providing adaptive equipment – For example, a reacher tool can help you grasp items. Tools can be more complex, like a wheelchair ramp or a special shower chair. Adaptive tools can help you stay independent and participate in the activities you enjoy.
  • Educating and offering support – Occupational therapists teach your family and caregivers how to best assist you. They also can give you information about community resources that might be able to help.
  • Helping you stay mobile and safe at home – To remain independent, you must make your home safe and accessible. Occupational therapists can teach you ways to move around your house comfortably. If you need help getting in and out of your home, your therapist may suggest ramps, low-riser steps, handrails, or mechanical lifts or elevators.
  • Offering tips on doing your daily chores – Therapists can help you find ways to do tasks that are hard for you. They might have ideas for products that will help make things easier. And they will teach you how to do things in a way that uses less energy and works around any struggles you may have.

There are many other ways occupational therapy can help. Talk to your doctor about how to start OT and the benefits you might get from it.1,2

OT can be very good for people with MS. It can help improve your quality of life and independence. It can reduce your symptoms and disability. Also, OT can help you maintain your hobbies and learn new skills. Along with your doctor, your occupational therapist can develop a plan that improves your quality of life with MS.1