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Rehabilitation is a generic term which describes all of the things a person needs to do to after an accident, illness or surgery, to return to – or as close as possible to – the lifestyle they had before, as quickly as possible and advisable.

The ultimate aim is to make sure the person is able to return to living independently and resume work and hobbies and activities they had prior.

Rehabilitation covers both the physical and mental/cognitive side of the whole process of 'getting better'.

Rehabilitation is most frequently necessary in connection with the following…

  • Injuries, including broken bones, burns, brain or spinal cord injury.
  • Severe infections.
  • Major surgery.
  • Birth defects ('congenital disorders').
  • Developmental problems.
  • Stroke.
  • Cancer (and side effects from cancer medication e.g. chemotherapy).

Many of the above will be accompanied by sometimes long periods of severe pain, which in itself makes it very hard to return to normal life.

A rehabilitation program is tailored to each individual and their specific circumstances. Generally, rehabilitation may include one or more of the following…

  • Special equipment - to allow someone with a disability move or perform certain functions without assistance.
  • Pain management program.
  • Occupational therapy – to assist with improving day-to-day activities.
  • Physical therapy – to improve general strength, fitness and mobility.
  • Diet / nutrition counselling.
  • Mental health counselling.
  • Recreational therapy – primarily to improve emotional wellbeing.
  • Music / art therapy.
  • Speech / language therapy – to improve speaking, cognition, reading and writing (and swallowing).
  • Vocational rehabilitation – to improve skills necessary in a workplace.

Depending on the rehabilitation program, some of these types of therapy may be provided at home (where you are visited by a therapist or nurse for example) or in a hospital or clinic.

Most rehabilitation programs involve a team of different health care providers who work together and with you to understand your objectives and the best treatment plan. These teams will likely include several of the following…

  • Allied health professionals.
  • Nurses.
  • Nutritionists / dietitians.
  • Occupational therapists.
  • Pain management doctors.
  • Physiotherapists.
  • Psychologists.
  • Social workers.
  • Speech therapists.
  • Specialist rehabilitation doctors.