Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is an inherited neurological illness that affects the peripheral nervous system, which controls movement and sensation. CMT patients often experience muscle weakness and problems with sensation, meaning they have difficulty walking and performing simple daily tasks. Occupational therapy aims to make CMT patients more independent.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy refers not only to patients’ work or employment, but to all aspects of their everyday lives. It focuses on their needs at work or at school, at home, during leisure activities, and while traveling or performing household tasks.

An occupational therapist can help patients make the necessary adjustments in their daily routine so they remain independent and maintain their quality of life.

People with CMT often have decreased strength and endurance, and problems with sensation, balance, coordination and pain.

The occupational therapist will assess circumstances at home and at work, as well as identify safety risks. For instance, patients who have balance problems risk falling and hurting themselves.

Interventions include, for instance, exercise programs to maintain strength, fitness and mobility. The occupational therapist evaluates whether special hand splints might help improve hand function. He or she can also help decide whether adaptive equipment such as non-slip bathroom surfaces and Velcro fasteners might help with gripping. Some CMT patients may also need walking aids such as braces, crutches and canes, or even wheelchairs or scooters.

Occupational therapists may work with physiotherapists, who usually focus on exercise programs or adaptive equipment. Occupational therapists practice in hospitals, social services, health agencies and schools. Health professionals such as doctors or nurses can refer patients to an occupational therapist.

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