Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive inflammatory disease, which can impact your mobility over time. This can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks and partake in hobbies on your own.

This is where occupational therapy (OT) can help. As part of your treatment plan, your doctor may recommend this type of therapy in addition to physical therapy.

If you’re curious about how OT can help, read on to learn the facts, benefits, and costs behind this therapy option.

Physical therapy helps you move around easier. Occupational therapy focuses more on the everyday tasks or “occupations” that you take part in. These can involve tasks that require moving around, as well as social activities.

OT professionals base their plans of care on your individual needs. They work with people living with various physical, sensory, and cognitive needs to help them achieve independence and better quality of life.

This type of therapy can also help you get back to work or school, and prevent injuries from your daily activities.

Physical therapy involves range-of-motion activities to help your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. Occupational therapy helps you with fine motor and gross motor skills.

Some exercises your therapist might help you with include:

  • getting dressed
  • tying your shoes
  • bathing
  • practice with assisted devices, such as reaching devices
  • playing games
  • throwing or catching a ball

Your occupational therapist will help you set goals for your treatment and create specific exercises to help get you there. After six months, your therapist may want to reevaluate your treatment plan.

When considering OT as an addition to your ankylosing spondylitis treatment plan, it’s important to understand the benefits.

For some people, disease progression can mean a loss of independence to complete everyday tasks, especially ones that involve stretching and bending. It can also mean that you’re no longer able to take part in hobbies and social activities like you could before.

The goal of OT is to help you achieve the ability and independence to fully enjoy such tasks.

It’s difficult to estimate the exact cost of OT treatment, as your bill will depend on your insurance. One website estimates the cost of OT ranging between $50 to $400 per session, with each visit lasting about an hour. The exact out-of-pocket costs depend on your insurance provider. You can request an estimate of these costs before beginning treatment.

Before setting up your OT sessions, call your insurance to make sure that the provider is in-network to avoid any surprising bills. Even if the occupational therapist you select is in-network, your insurance might limit the number of sessions they’ll cover. You might also be required to pay a copayment each visit.

Your therapist may also recommend assistive devices to make everyday tasks easier. Be aware, though, that these come at an extra cost. Some online research can help you compare products and prices. Online supports groups and organizations like the Arthritis Foundation are also good resources for product recommendations.

Like physical therapy, OT can quickly become expensive if you don’t consider the above. Do your homework ahead of time to avoid any payment headaches. Also ask your doctor’s office to provide an up-to-date list of therapists covered by your insurance.

The only drawbacks to OT can be the cost and time commitment. Most therapists want to see you at least once a week for an hour per session. This can be a challenging commitment, especially if you’re working or raising kids.

You’ll want to consider the best time and day each week for your sessions. This will ensure you make it to your appointments on time and stick with your weekly commitment.

As mentioned, cost can be another issue with attending OT sessions. Be sure you have all the estimated costs in advance. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover all your sessions, your provider may be able to work with you to offset the costs.

Your doctor might refer you to an occupational therapist, especially if your health insurance requires a referral to see a specialist. But you can also ask for recommendations from friends or search online resources, such as:

A reputable occupational therapy office will sometimes offer free consultations to assess your needs and offer a long-term plan of care. Most people see their OT on a weekly basis until a long-term plan can be established. It may be helpful to consult with a few prospective therapists before committing to one.

OT is just one aspect of long-term ankylosing spondylitis care. While medications work to reduce inflammation and pain, OT is an important addition to prevent injury and increase your overall quality of life.

The techniques you learn can also help you maintain your independence as you age. Talk to your doctor to see if OT could complement your current treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis.