Occupational Therapy in Ankylosing Spondylitis: Benefits, Drawbacks, Costs

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and large joints of the body. This is a progressive disease, which ultimately has an impact on your mobility over a period of time. Ankylosing spondylitis can make it difficult for you to even carry out simple day to day tasks or actively participate in hobbies that you like. Therapies and medications are known to help manage the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. One such therapy for ankylosing spondylitis is occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy helps people of all ages to live a full life by promoting health through the therapeutic use of daily activities. It also helps people to learn to live a better quality of life with their illness, disability, or injury. Read on to find out about the benefits, cost and drawbacks of occupational therapy in ankylosing spondylitis.

What is Occupational Therapy?

As part of your treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis, your doctor may recommend that you follow occupational therapy (OT) along with physical therapy. Physical therapy will help you move around in an easier manner, while occupational therapy is more focused on helping you do your everyday tasks, or occupation, by yourself. These tasks can involve those that require you to be mobile and move around, or it can also include social activities.

Occupational therapy professionals will come up with their treatment plan based on your individual condition and needs. These professionals work together with people who are affected by many types of sensory, physical, and cognitive needs. They help such people achieve a higher level of independence and also live a better quality of life.

Occupational therapy can help a patient of ankylosing spondylitis get back to work or their studies, and also prevent injuries from happening due to their daily activities.
While physical therapy focuses on range-of-motion activities that help alleviate your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, occupational therapy will help develop your fine motor and gross motor skills that are affected by the disease.

During occupational therapy, your therapist might help you with the following tasks:

  • Tying your shoes
  • Getting dressed by yourself
  • Playing games
  • Bathing
  • Throwing or catching a ball
  • Practicing with assisted devices, including reaching devices

Your occupational therapist will help you come up with goals for your treatment and also create certain exercises that will help you achieve these goals. After six months, your therapist is going to evaluate your treatment plan and then take the decision of where you stand and what all goals are yet to be met or achieved in the future.(1)

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Before you consider occupational therapy as an addition to your treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis, it is first important to understand the benefits occupational therapy provides for ankylosing spondylitis.

For many people, as the disease progresses, it translates into a loss of independence even for completing everyday tasks that involve bending and stretching. It also means that that you are no longer able to participate in social activities and hobbies like you could before your disease progressed.

The ultimate goal of occupational therapy is to make it possible for you to achieve the independence and ability you need to fully enjoy such tasks.

What is the Cost of Occupational Therapy?

It is difficult to understand the exact cost of this therapy as the final cost will depend on your insurance. For example, some websites claim that the cost of occupational therapy ranges between $50 to $400 for one session, with each session lasting for an hour or so.(2) The total out-of-pocket costs depend on your insurance provider. Before you begin the treatment, it is recommended that you request an estimate so that you are aware of all the costs involved.

If you have insurance, then before beginning your occupational therapy sessions, you should call your insurance provider to make sure that you are not in for any nasty surprises at the end of your session. Even if the occupational therapist that you have selected falls in-network, your insurance might still restrict the number of sessions that they will cover. You are also required to pay a copayment for every visit.

Your occupational therapist might also recommend the use of some assistive devices that will make it easier for you to do your daily tasks. However, keep in mind that these devices might come at an extra cost. Doing some online research beforehand will help you make a comparison between the products and their prices. There are also many online support organizations and groups(3), such as the Arthritis Foundation(4), that are also a good place to get product recommendations.

Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapy can become very expensive if you don’t keep these points in mind. It is better to research all your options before you select one so that you don’t get trapped into any payment headaches. Also, find out from your doctor’s office about getting an updated list of therapists that are covered by your insurance.

Drawbacks and Points to Consider

One of the drawbacks to occupational therapy is the time commitment it requires and the high costs associated with this therapy. Most occupational therapists would want you to come for an hour session at least once in a week. For many people, especially those who are working or if you are raising children, then this proves to be a challenging commitment.

You need to consider the best day and best time every week for your occupational therapy sessions. This will make sure that you are able to make it to your appointments on time and also follow your weekly commitment.

As mentioned earlier, the high cost of attending occupational therapy sessions can take a toll on many people. So make sure that you have gotten an estimate in advance. Even if your insurance provider does not cover your sessions, it might be possible to work together with them to offset some of the costs.

Conclusion

Occupational therapy is just one of the aspects of managing ankylosing spondylitis in the longer term. While your doctor will prescribe you medications to reduce your pain and inflammation, occupational therapy can still be an essential addition to prevent further injury and improve the overall quality of your life.

The techniques you learn during occupational therapy will help you maintain your independence as you age and will help you manage your daily tasks. You should discuss with your doctor to see if occupational therapy could be added to your current treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis.

References:  

  1. Kielhofner, G., 2009. Conceptual foundations of occupational therapy practice. FA Davis.
  2. CostHelper. (2019). How Much Does Occupational Therapy Cost? – CostHelper.com. [online] Available at: https://health.costhelper.com/occupational-therapy.html [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].
  3. Spondylitis.org. (2019). Community. [online] Available at: https://www.spondylitis.org/Community [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].
  4. Arthritis.org. (2019). Arthritis Ease of Use Products. [online] Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/ease-of-use/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].

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