What types of activities are involved with rehabilitation medicine?

Did you know there are many types of rehab for children with disabilities?Rehabilitation medicine uses many kinds of assistance, therapies, and devices to improve function. The type of rehabilitation a person receives depends on the condition causing impairment, the bodily function that is affected, and the severity of the impairment.

The following are some common types of rehabilitation:1, 2, 3, 4, 5

  • Cognitive (pronounced KOG-ni-tiv) rehabilitation therapy involves relearning or improving skills, such as thinking, learning, memory, planning, and decision making that may have been lost or affected by brain injury.
  • Occupational (pronounced ok-yuh-PEY-shuh-nl) therapy helps a person carry out daily life tasks and activities in the home, workplace, and community.
  • Pharmacorehabilitation (pronounced fahr-muh-koh-ree-huh-bil-i-TEY-shuhn) involves the use of drugs to improve or restore physical or mental function.
  • Physical therapy involves activities and exercises to improve the body’s movements, sensations, strength, and balance.
  • Rehabilitative/assistive technology refers to tools, equipment, and products that help people with disabilities move and function. This technology includes (but is not limited to):
    • Orthotics (pronounced awr-THOT-iks), which are devices that aim to improve movement and prevent contracture in the upper and lower limbs. For instance, pads inserted into a shoe, specially fitted shoes, or ankle or leg braces can improve a person’s ability to walk. Hand splints and arm braces can help the upper limbs remain supple and unclenched after a spinal cord injury.
    • Prosthetics (pronounced pros-THET-iks), which are devices designed to replace a missing body part, such as an artificial limb
    • Wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and other mobility aids
    • Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, which aim to either make a person’s communication more understandable or take the place of a communication method. They can include electronic devices, speech-generating devices, and picture boards.
    • Hearing aids and cochlear implants
    • Retinal prostheses, which can restore useful vision in cases in which it has been lost due to certain degenerative eye conditions
    • Telemedicine and telerehab technologies, which are devices or software to deliver care or monitor conditions in the home or community
    • Rehabilitation robotics
    • Mobile apps to assist with speech/communication, anxiety/stress, memory, and other functions or symptoms6
  • Recreational (pronounced rek-ree-EY-shuh-nl) therapy helps improve symptoms and social and emotional well-being through arts and crafts, games, relaxation training, and animal-assisted therapy.
  • Speech and language therapy aims to improve impaired swallowing and movement of the mouth and tongue, as well as difficulties with the voice, language, and talking.
  • Surgery includes procedures to correct a misaligned limb or to release a constricted muscle, skin grafts for burns, insertion of chips into the brain to assist with limb or prosthetic movement, and placement of skull plates or bone pins.
  • Vocational (pronounced voh-KEY-shuh-nl) rehabilitation aids in building skills for going to school or working at a job.
  • Music or art therapy can specifically aid in helping people express emotion, in cognitive development, or in helping to develop social connectedness.7

These services are provided by a number of different health care providers and specialists, including (but not limited to):

  • Physiatrists (also called rehabilitation physicians)
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Cognitive rehabilitation therapists
  • Gait and clinical movement specialist
  • Rehabilitation technologists
  • Speech therapists
  • Audiologists
  • Orthopedists/surgeons
  • Neurologists
  • Psychiatrists/psychologists
  • Biomedical engineers
  • Rehabilitation engineers


  1. NIH Clinical Center (2013). Rehabilitation Medicine. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.cc.nih.gov/rmd/
  2. Medline Plus. (2013). Prosthesis. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002286.htm
  3. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (2014). Intestinal Rehabilitation. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from https://www.upmc.com/services/transplant/intestinal/rehabilitation External Web Site Policy
  4. The Society for Cognitive Rehabilitation. (2013). What is Cognitive Rehab Therapy? Retrieved September 3, 2014, from https://www.societyforcognitiverehab.org/what_is_cognitive_rehab.php External Web Site Policy
  5. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2014). Orthotics. Retrieved September 3, 2014, from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00172 External Web Site Policy
  6. BrainLine.org. (2014). Life-Changing Mobile Apps for People with Brain Injury. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.brainline.org/content/2013/12/life-changing-iphone-and-ipad-apps-for-people-with-brain.html External Web Site Policy
  7. National Rehabilitation Information Center. (2010). Art and music therapy in rehab and beyond. Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.naric.com/?q=en/content/art-and-music-therapy-rehab-and-beyond External Web Site Policy

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