Velcro – an OTs best friend
Since fracturing my wrist in December, I have gained a greater respect for Velcro. Having new shoes with Velcro closures has truly been a blessing since all my other shoes require tying. Maybe some people have mastered tying shoes one-handed but not me, despite several attempts.
My left hand is still only marginally functional, very weak and limited range of motion especially in wrist flexion and extension. But then the plaster cast has been off for only six days now. And the removable wrist brace that they gave me at the clinic can easily be donned and doffed as needed, thanks to the magic of Velcro.
Curious about Velcro, I searched on the internet. As the story goes, in 1941 a Swiss electrical engineer, George de Mestral invented Velcro as the result of burrs sticking to his pants while walking in the woods. This hook and loop fastener was patented as Velcro in 1955 combining the words velvet and crochet into Velcro. Initially Velcro was made of cotton but it was found that nylon created stronger Velcro.
My first major encounter with Velcro was in occupational therapy school, sometime around 1973 or so. At that time, Velcro straps were being used on the splints that we fabricated for our patients. I feel like I had seen Velcro sometime before that, perhaps on a piece of luggage or on a blood pressure cuff.
I couldn’t find anything specific in my internet search but it seems as if sometime in the 1980s, Velcro became more mainstream. You could buy Velcro in any sewing shop or large discount store such as Target. You could easily find shoes, especially for kids, with Velcro closures, and it seemed to be everywhere.
It’s difficult for me to imagine the practice of occupational therapy in the early years of the profession, before the invention of Velcro. What kept splints from falling off in the pre-Velcro era of OT?
These days Velcro as one of the main low-tech tools that occupational therapists use. Few splints are Velcro-less. Many of the adaptive devices that we use to liberate our patients in activities of daily living require Velcro such as utensil cuffs and adaptations for buttoning and other devices that need stabilizing that are easy to use and remove. And Velcro can be cut to virtually any size and shape and it is relatively inexpensive, especially if purchased in larger quantities.
In our clinical settings, whether medical or school or someplace else, Velcro seems to be everywhere. It is the perfect material to add resistance in different grades to most any therapeutic exercise such as a simple game of checkers. Velcro and occupational therapy truly seems to be a match made in heaven,
I would enjoy hearing from occupational therapy practitioners about some of the creative ways that they have utilized Velcro.