Our Occupational Therapist, Heather Larson, OT, has 15+ years of experience helping the people of Central Oregon get back to their normal activities.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Occupational therapy services typically include:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

Occupational therapy services includes a comprehensive evaluation of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

Please select an area of interest below to learn how occupational therapy can help you or a loved one to live life to its fullest!

Chronic Pain

occupational-chronicMore than 130 million Americans suffer from chronic, or frequently occurring, pain.

Chronic pain creates both physical and psychological problems that affect whether a person can engage in meaningful activities each day. Pain can decrease a person’s strength, coordination, and independence in addition to causing stress that may lead to depression.

With the help of occupational therapy, people with chronic pain can learn to manage the physical and psychological effects and lead active and productive lives. Many people with chronic pain already have received treatment with medication, surgery, heat, cold, nerve stimulation, and massage. What many have not yet learned is how management of daily activities and lifestyle can contribute to successful, long-term coping with pain.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Identify specific activities or behaviors that aggravate pain and suggest alternatives.
  • Teach methods for decreasing the frequency and duration of painful episodes.
  • Implement therapy interventions that may decrease dependence on or use of pain medications.
  • Facilitate the development of better function for daily activities at work and home.
  • Collaborate with the client’s team of health care professionals, such as physicians, physical therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, to determine the best course of treatment and intervention.
  • Recommend and teach the client how to use adaptive equipment to decrease pain while performing tasks such as reaching, dressing, bathing, and perform household chores.

What can a person with chronic pain do?

  • Develop and practice a lifestyle based on wellness, which includes plenty of rest, exercise, healthy nutrition, and maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Practice techniques to decrease the intensity of pain.
  • Organize a daily routine with personal pain management goals, such as eliminating or modifying activities that use a lot of energy and implementing body mechanics that move the body in ways that are less likely to aggravate pain.
  • Exercise to increase strength and flexibility and reduce pain.
  • Practice relaxation techniques that calm the mind and reduce tensions that aggravate pain.

Returning to Work

occupational-returningAfter a person experiences an injury and has taken time off work to recover, he or she will need to go through a transition period when first returning to work. Transitional work is a step in the recovery process when a person is able to complete some job tasks but is not yet at full capacity.

A transitional work program includes job coaching, instruction, and education in safe work practices to prevent further injury. The program usually includes a combination of job tasks that a worker is able to perform safely.

An occupational therapist trained in return-to-work services can evaluate a person’s ability to complete his or her job tasks and oversee a company’s return-to-work program.

The goal of occupational therapy is to provide the returning worker with tasks that are meaningful and to facilitate the worker’s complete and total independence and function at work. A transitional work program also allows for the use of environmentally focused interventions that incorporate good, healthy ergonomic practices.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Evaluate a person while on the job to determine his or her ability to complete job tasks.
  • Recommend modifications to job tasks that the worker can complete safely.
  • Identify a worker’s meaningful job tasks.
  • Implement and supervise a company’s return-to-work program to ensure a safe, productive, and functional work environment.
  • Monitor a worker’s progress regularly and reassess to determine when work tasks can be upgraded to full duty.

What can a person returning to work do?

  • Do not overestimate his or her ability and capacity to complete job tasks.
  • Complete tasks gradually on the advice of an occupational therapist, health care professionals, and the employer.
  • Implement the use of assistive devices that may help a person complete a task safely.
  • Develop strength and endurance in performing job tasks.

Tendon Injuries

occupational-Tendon-InjuriesWhen a person experiences a tendon injury in the hand that affects the ability to flex or extend the hand properly and in a safe way, he or she likely will have a difficult time completing everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, using the bathroom, and attending to chores at home and at work. Every person’s injury is different and the rate of recovery depends on the severity of the injury.

Occupational therapists who specialize in hand therapy can provide rehabilitation intervention that enables the hand to function well and prevent further injury.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Evaluate the client’s injury following care by an orthopedist to coordinate treatment plans and determine the course of intervention.
  • Analyze the client’s environment at home and work to identify potential barriers to the client’s performance.
  • Fabricate a protective splint for the injured part of the hand and teach the client how to manage daily activities while wearing the splint.
  • Recommend a home exercise program that will facilitate healing and optimum use of the hand.
  • Apply techniques to reduce swelling, prevent further injury, care for wounds, and improve movement.
  • Show the client how to complete activities safely and independently while the hand is being rehabilitated.
  • Incorporate the client’s goals and desires into the treatment plan.

What can a person with a hand tendon injury do?

  • Implement a home exercise program recommended by the occupational therapist.
  • Learn how to improve coordination to increase the use of his or her hand under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
  • Strengthen the hand and progress toward full use of the hand.
  • Set short- and long-term rehabilitation terms upon consulting an occupational therapist and other health professionals.
  • Learn how to perform daily activities, such as dressing, grooming, and driving, in a safe manner while the hand is being rehabilitated.


occupational-ErgonomicsErgonomics is the science of designing a person’s environment so that it facilitates the highest level of function. A person’s work environment should fit his or her capabilities as a worker.

Good ergonomics prevent injury and promote health, safety, and comfort for employees.

The use of ergonomics principles can increase worker productivity and quality. Employers can implement a program that includes guidelines for employees to follow, contributes to an efficient work environment, prevents injuries and the development of chronic medical conditions, and helps employees return to work after an injury has occurred.

Occupational therapy practitioners are trained in the structure and function of the human body and the effects of illness and injury. They also can determine how the components of the workplace can facilitate a healthy and efficient environment or one that could cause injury or illness. An occupational therapist can help employers identify hazards that may contribute to on-the-job injury, and determine how it can be eliminated.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Identify and eliminate accident and injury risk factors in the workplace, such as actions associated with repetition, force, fixed or awkward postures, poorly designed tool handles, heavy loads, distance, vibration, noise, extreme temperatures, poor lighting, and psychosocial and other occupational stresses.
  • Analyze job functions and job descriptions based on job tasks.
  • Design pre-hire screenings to determine a candidate’s suitability to a particular job.
  • Modify tools and equipment so that they do not enable injury or illness.
  • Provide education and training on injury prevention, workplace health and safety regulations, and managing job-related stress.
  • Determine reasonable accommodations and worksite accessibility that is in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Recommend changes employers can take to minimize injury and accident risk factors.

What can a person do to employ good ergonomics in the workplace?

  • Take a proactive approach to preventing injury in the workplace.
  • Follow guidelines set forth by employers that may prevent injury and illness.
  • Report hazards or poor work conditions or employee behavior that may contribute to illness or injury in the workplace.

Healthy Computing

occupational-healthy-computingAdults of all ages spend many hours every day sitting at a desk or in front of a computer while they work and then go home to surf the Internet for pleasure or catch up with friends and family through e-mail messaging. How a person positions himself or herself in a chair, and how he or she uses the computer equipment can affect not only comfort, but also health and well-being.

Occupational therapists are trained to perform an “ergonomic” evaluation, or an evaluation that determines how well a person fits into his or her environment. A person who does not sit correctly in a chair or strains to use a computer may suffer back and neck pain and eyestrain. Most computer equipment and workstations are built to fit adults, but a few adjustments can be made to an adult’s work area to promote a healthy lifestyle free of pain.

What can an occupational therapist do?

  • Evaluate a person’s current computer workstation setup to determine whether it is ergonomically correct to prevent unnecessary strain.
  • Advise adults on what equipment can be used to create a healthy workstation, such as special keyboards, keyboard trays, document holders, footrests, and office chairs.
  • Educate people and their employers about proper posture and movement to prevent injury and strain.
  • Teach stretching exercises to do at home that support a healthy back.

What can a person do to prevent back and neck strain?

  • Encourage proper posture of the head, forearms, back, and feet: The head should be level with the monitor and the top of the screen at eye level. The forearms should be parallel to the keyboard and held only slightly above it. The lower back should be supported while sitting in front of a computer. Place a small pillow or rolled up towel between the back of the chair and the lower back to provide back support. Feet should rest flat on the floor or on a footstep.
  • Arrange computer desk and equipment so as to avoid glare from sunlight. Sit the monitor 18 to 30 inches away from the person.
  • Adjust the chair to an appropriate height for the person.