Thrive by IU Health

April 02, 2024

Occupational Therapist wears many hats and even a crown

Occupational Therapist wears many hats and even a crown

April is “Occupational Therapy Month” and one IU Health practitioner shares her unique personal and professional interests.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

As she recently worked with a patient that she had seen many times, Mamta Barmeda spoke about the patient’s progress. She wrapped his hand in a heated blanket to improve blood circulation and then worked the tissues in his hand.

“The tissue talks to you. The hand muscles communicate. When they get unhappy it’s like they are laying on plate all convoluted like a heap of spaghetti,” Barmeda explained. With specially designed instruments, she used Astym treatment to stimulate tissue growth, and then began dry needling to target areas that contribute to the patient’s pain.

Barmeda was born and raised in Thane, India in the western India state of Maharashtra. She moved to Indiana at the age of 18 where she attended Indiana University and enrolled in business classes. It was by chance that she changed her area of concentration to occupational therapy.

“I went to a meeting for free pizza. It was for allied health students and they were electing officers for the organization. I ran for office, spoke my heart out, was elected to office and changed my major,” said Barmeda. “I looked at the different options and decided occupational health was the best match for me because it focused on holistic treatment of the mind, body, and soul.” She worked hard to obtain her degree and graduated with honors.

In her first jobs she was drawn to the patients’ hands. She went on to gain certification in hand therapy and is the only IU Health occupational therapist certified in dry needling. Specifically, dry needling is a type of therapy used to treat musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions. It involves inserting a tiny, sterile needle into tissues with the intent of reducing pain and increasing circulation. Electrical stimulation may be added to intensify the treatment.

Mamta Barmeda occupational therapy

“It feels like a strange little muscle spasm,” said a patient who was receiving the treatment. He added that before he started hand therapy he was unable to put toothpaste on his toothbrush, apply deodorant, or remove a cap from a water bottle. After a year of hand therapy, he is seeing great improvements.

Barmeda decided to become certified in dry needling after she experienced the intense and ongoing neurology pain from shingles. “I had dry needling done once and it relieved he pain and it hasn’t come back. I became a firm believer in the benefits and wanted to help others,” said Barmeda.

Barmeda’s specialization of hand therapy has her seeing a different patient every 45 minutes.

She enjoys the rapport she establishes with her patients and personalizes each need. One patient needed a splint for her hand to rest. After leaving with the splint, the patient reported that the way the splint was configured made it difficult for her husband to sleep because he always held her hand. When Barmeda learned this detail, she modified the splint to be fabricated in a position that opened up the patient’s palms and fingers.

“The best part of my job is treating each patient as if they are my only patient,” said Barmeda., who is married and the mother of two boys.

Mamta Barmeda occupational therapy

When she’s not working, Barmeda is often seen walking the runway. She models for New York, and LA Fashion Week and has won three titles in the USA pageant world, including “Mrs. Bharat Elite Indiana 2023.” She was also named second runner-up in the “Mrs. Universe USA 2024” pageant. For the “prop” segment of the competition Barmeda designed a costume based on her personal story of being raised in a male-dominated society where she experienced discrimination. The words on her costume illustrated her journey of being “strong,” “bold,” “independent,” “resilient,” and “empowering.”

Barmeda has encouraged other women by sharing her message and was a featured speaker in March at the International Marketplace Coalition’s International Women’s Gathering.

“It’s important to me to help boost the confidence of others and empower them to do what they love,” said Barmeda.