Occupational Therapy Versus Physical Therapy
The fields of occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) are often confused. While both roles provide essential hands-on rehabilitative work to help clients perform everyday tasks as independently as possible, each field takes a diverse approach in helping people get back to their usual way of life.
OT vs PT: One Basic Difference
The main difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is that OT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL) and PT focuses on improving a client’s ability to perform movement of the human body.
An occupational therapist treats the whole person. Whether they’re recovering from injuries or have developmental or cognitive disabilities affecting their motor skills, emotions or behavior, OTs are helping people to fully engage in daily life.
According to the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, occupational therapy is unique in that it uses a holistic approach to look not only at the reasons a client’s participation in activities has been impacted, but also at the client’s roles and environment. The approach includes wellness promotion, rehabilitation, and habilitation.
For example, you recently broke your ankle after taking a fall and can no longer participate in your Wednesday night exercise class. While recovering, you could meet with an OT to get to the root of why you look forward to exercising each week. Is it the exercise that’s important? Is it engaging with the people in your class? Your OT will help you to accomplish your goal.
A physical therapist treats the patient’s actual impairment from a biomechanical perspective. Physical therapy tries to improve the impairment itself by increasing mobility, aligning bones and joints, or lessening pain.
A PT’s primary goal is to get their patients back in motion with exercises, massage and other techniques.
They focus on preventing injuries and can help people avoid surgery or a long term-reliance on medications.
You love playing outdoors with your kids, but can’t anymore due to a herniated disc. Your physical therapist will work with you to create a specific treatment program that will speed up your recovery, including exercises and stretches that you can do at home.
OT vs PT: How They Overlap
Although the fields of occupational therapy and physical therapy serve different roles in health care, there is a lot of crossover between the two.
- Both educate people on how to prevent and avoid injuries.
- Both educate people about the healing process.
- Both assist people with improving their ability to perform daily activities through training and education.
- Both play very important roles and specialize in their areas of expertise.
In some cases, patients may start with a physical therapist and progress to an occupational therapist. For example, someone recovering from a severe stroke might work with a physical therapist to build back muscle strength. Later on, that person would see an occupational therapist to practice basic skills the stroke may have impaired such as, bathing, dressing, eating and walking.
At Legacy Rehabilitation Group, we provide both physical therapy and occupational therapy. Call us today for a free consultation at 763-267-6654.