Occupational therapy & MS

Learn how occupational therapists (OTs) may help people living with MS


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What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people do everyday things. For instance, grooming, dressing, feeding, going to the bathroom, and bathing. These are called basic activities of daily living (BADL). OTs may help with managing finances, traveling, cooking, taking medication, using communication devices, childcare, and housework. These are called instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). OTs may help people with leisure, social, and work activities. They focus on removing barriers by adapting people’s environment.

OTs treat in all kinds of settings. For example, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, homes, schools, or at work. They may find new and easier ways to do tasks. They may use special equipment or educate people about strengthening exercises. OTs may also give guidance to care partners. Find out more about OTs from the  American Occupational Therapy Association.

How are OTs different?

OTs take a complete approach to care. They work with each patient to reach his or her own goals. The aim is to help people to be as independent as they can.

OTs start by assessing each task. What are the physical, cognitive, and social requirements? What is preventing their completion? They then make adjustments to help overcome symptoms or limitations that get in the way.

How can OTs help people with MS?

Rehabilitation may be an important part of complete care in multiple sclerosis (MS). People with MS may experience  various symptoms . These may keep them from taking part in activities they need to. OTs work with patients and care partners to help manage symptoms that get in the way. They help people maintain their role in life and complete daily tasks.

OTs look for ways to be more efficient. They help people perform daily activities, increase strength, and save energy. These are three of the many common reasons people may receive OT treatment in MS.

What happens in an OT session?

Typically, during the first session, an OT will assess potential barriers. What keeps you from self-care? From leisure, career, household, and community tasks? The next sessions may then help you cope with MS symptoms and potential challenges. The number of sessions depends on the level of impairment, treatment goals, and insurance coverage. Usually, OT sessions are thought of as short-term therapy.

Common treatment sessions for MS may include:

  • Fall prevention
  • Energy conservation
  • Motor exercises
  • Upper-body strengthening and stretching
  • Stress management
  • Medication management
  • Money management
  • Activities of daily living
  • Getting back into the community
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Time management
  • Organization skills
  • Clutter management
  • Driving evaluation and rehabilitation
  • Training on adaptive devices and durable medical equipment
  • Safety

How do you choose an OT?

Many OTs specialize in neurology and are qualified to treat people with MS. Your doctor may refer you to a qualified OT. Some OTs have received specialty training from the Consortium of MS Centers. They are called Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialists. Learn more and find a specialist near you at MScare.org .

Insurance for OT

Coverage for OT services varies by plan. Services are covered by most plans if a doctor refers you. Learn more at AOTA.org . Foundations and associations in some states offer free short-term coverage for MS. Contact your local National MS Society chapter to see if you’re eligible.

If you and your doctor decide to reach out to an OT, it’s important to work with somebody you are comfortable with. OTs want to help, so make sure you are open and honest about how you’re feeling.



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