Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What are the Differences?

Physical therapy and occupational therapy are two of the rehabilitation programs that help patients recover and prevent further damage. While there are some similarities between the two of them, there are also some key differences.

The article explains the deficiencies and similarities between physical therapy and occupational therapy and helps you to pick the appropriate one based on your needs.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy (PT) is the profession of moving parts of the body for recovery purposes. It’s appropriate for people of all ages who have suffered injuries that limit functional activities or movements. PT is a treatment technique that;

  • Increase ability to move
  • Prevent disability
  • Restore function
  • Reduce pain

Physical therapists develop fitness and wellness programs for patients. They prevent the loss of mobility before it happens. The treatment leads to a healthier and more active lifestyle.


What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a treatment plan that works with the other programs to assess and treat conditions that affect the patient’s ability to complete daily tasks.

Occupational therapy helps patients with a wide and different range of functional activities to improve cognitive, visual, function, and general occupation skills. In addition, it assists patients in performing their tasks with the highest degree of independence possible.


Occupational therapy and physical therapy; the differences

There is a fundamental difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy. Physical therapy looks to improve the patient’s ability to move, whereas occupational therapy works to improve their daily living skills. Furthermore, Physical Therapy was founded on the foundations of physical rehabilitation, whereas IT was based on mental healthcare and physical rehabilitation.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy‘s main focus is to improve patients’ movement, mobility, and function. The physical therapist uses different exercises, stretches, or other physical activities to achieve this purpose. PT works with one part of the body that needs improvement. They are also experts who are driven to help their patients back on track. PTs work to restore mobility, reduce discomfort, and improve gross motor skills while encouraging function and independence and preventing disability. Gross motor abilities are employed in the balance and coordination of the arms, legs, and other significant body parts and are typically acquired in childhood.

For instance, physical therapy could help recovery after knee replacement surgery. During the process, the therapist works with the patient to strengthen and increase the motion in their knee joint. As a result, the patient would be able to move with less pain and discomfort. Physical therapy focuses not only on recovery but also on preventing future damage. A functional and pain-free movement is critical to one’s quality of life. Physical therapists also design and implement treatment strategies to assist patients in preventing surgery or prescribed pain drugs. PTs also know the emotional components of injury recovery and are frequently their patients’ most potent boosters.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy‘s focus is on helping people to do daily tasks easily. The improvement in fine and gross skills helps you to complete the day-to-day activities. In addition, the occupational therapist helps to reshape your home or environment to become appropriate for your daily life. For instance, the therapist can help a patient who suffered a stroke to complete daily tasks. He/she can recommend installing a grab bar in the shower so the patient can take a shower easily.

Occupational therapists are experts who love assisting individuals in improving their lives by recovering independence following an injury or helping children and seniors with profound intellectual impairments adjust to daily life. From newborn care through adulthood, OTs are compassionate therapists that assess the complete person and construct therapies that take physical, emotional, and environmental elements into consideration that impact participation and performance in essential activities.

Occupational therapy works with the whole body, not just one part. It helps people to fully engage in daily life.

Besides looking at the client’s roles and environment, the occupational therapist looks at the reasons a patient’s participation in activities has been affected. According to NBCOT, “occupational therapy uses a holistic approach.” It focuses on;

  • Wellness promotion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Habilitation

The holistic approach supports every aspect of a patient’s life, including occupational, emotional, physical, and social.


Occupational therapy and physical therapy; the similarities

Despite different approaches and their definition, there are similarities between occupational therapy and physical therapy as follows;

  • The overall goal. Physical therapy and occupational therapy both strive to enhance your general functionality, quality of life, and understanding of how to maintain your health and well-being.
  • Evaluation. Evaluating the patient’s condition and their needs.
  • Purpose. The purpose of the two programs is to improve patients’ quality of life and understand the new condition.
  • Diagnosing. Diagnosing a treatment option based on the patient’s condition.
  • Treatment. Planning and implementing a treatment plan to improve the patient’s condition, health, and well-being.
  • Condition. There is an overlap between patients’ conditions that OT or PT might be recommended.
  • Education. Providing knowledge, experience, and education to patients and their families to help patients the most during the recovery process.
  • Tasks. There could be some overlap in the tasks. For instance, OT might teach stretches or exercises while PT could work on movements to help with daily activities.


What does a physical therapist do?

The physical therapist helps patients when a condition affects movement or range of motion. It increases mobility after an illness or injury. For instance, It helps the recovery process after surgery. It also aids with pain management to reduce sources of chronic pain, such as;

  • Neuropathic pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis

Physical therapy increases endurance. It strengthens the muscles and helps the stability.

Some of the health conditions the physical therapist could work with are as follows;

  • Heart conditions
  • Cancer
  • Neurological conditions
  • Lung conditions
  • Hand conditions

The type of therapy you will receive is up to your specific conditions. The therapist will evaluate your background, and current conditions and recommends a therapy plan. They use a wide and different range of techniques, including;

  • Massage
  • Hands-on manipulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Targeted exercises
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Stretching
  • Application of hot and cold


The Goals of Physical Therapy

The primary objectives of physical therapy are as follows:

  • Enhancing or restoring range of motion, power, endurance, and movement.
  • Lessening pain.
  • Keeping your condition from deteriorating.
  • Educate you on how to keep your entire health and functioning in check.


When to Do Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is frequently advised when a problem impairs your mobility or range of motion. Physical therapy can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Restoring mobility following an injury
  • Recovery from a medical treatment
  • Treatment of pain
  • Joint ailments including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
  • Neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and stroke rehabilitation
  • Hand conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger urine incontinence
  • Lung problems, including COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.
  • Cardiac problems, including heart failure and recovery after a heart attack
  • Cancer


What Type of Physical Therapy Should You Expect?

The sort of therapy you should expect will be personalized to your unique need. The physical therapist will thoroughly analyze your medical history and current health status to design a strategy and objectives for your treatment. Physical therapists employ a wide range of procedures, including:

  • Targeted workouts
  • Stretching
  • Manipulation using one’s hands
  • The use of hot and cold
  • Massage
  • Ultrasound
  • Stimulation with electricity


Where Should You Go to Receive Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy experts can be found in several settings, including, but not restricted to:

  • Clinics or offices for outpatients
  • Hospitals and nursing homes are examples of inpatient facilities.
  • Home health care services
  • Schools
  • Fitness facilities

What does an occupational therapist do?

The ultimate goal of occupational therapy is to increase the performing different daily tasks. An occupational therapist helps with the following conditions;

  • Heart conditions
  • Cancer
  • Neurological conditions
  • Lung conditions
  • Hand conditions
  • Pain management
  • Recovery from an injury or surgery
  • Developmental conditions
  • Psychological conditions

The occupational therapist will evaluate the patient’s conditions and background. Then, they will recommend an appropriate therapy plan and determine specific goals. The set goals are to increase the well-being and health of the patients.

The things involved in the OT recovery process could be as follows;

  • Educate the patient’s family or caregivers on how to support the daily activities.
  • Provide stress management techniques and strategies.
  • A recovery plan that helps return to work
  • Exercises to reduce pain or increase flexibility
  • Assistance with daily tasks or relearning them
  • Help to use assistive devices (walkers, wheelchairs)
  • Assessing the place of residence, and implementing changes to complete tasks easier.
  • Training with movements inside the house, such as getting into or out of bed, chair, etc.


The Goals of Occupational Therapy

The overarching aims of occupational therapy are as follows:

  • Improve your capacity to accomplish many daily duties securely and efficiently.
  • Encourage self-reliance and productivity.
  • Teach caretakers how to assist someone who is having occupational therapy.


When to Do Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy may be prescribed when a disability or sickness impairs your capacity to do daily duties. Among the circumstances for which occupational therapy may be employed are:

  • Recovery following an accident or surgery
  • Treatment of pain
  • Neurological conditions, such as stroke recovery, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Disorders affecting the joints, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, etc., are conditions affecting the hands.
  • There are also conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities that affect development.
  • Psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s illness or dementia


What Type of Occupational Therapy Should You Expect?

The occupational therapy practitioners will assess your requirements by reviewing your medical history and current condition. They will then utilize this information to create a therapeutic plan and establish precise targets.

Some of the items that may be included as part of occupational therapy are as follows:

  • Helping you in learning or relearning how to conduct everyday routines such as dressing, eating, and bathing.
  • Examine your home, school, or job for ways to make regular activities simpler.
  • Instructing you on how to utilize assistance equipment like wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Assisting you with fine motor skills activities, including writing or buttoning a shirt.
  • Teaching you how to safely get into and out of chairs, beds, and bathtubs.
  • Demonstrating exercises you may do to develop flexibility or minimize discomfort.
  • Providing you with programs that will aid you in returning to work.
  • Teaching you stress-management techniques.
  • Teach your family members and caregivers how to best help you daily.


Where Should You Go to Receive Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy experts operate in a wide range of settings, such as:

  • Clinics or offices for outpatients
  • Hospitals and nursing homes are examples of inpatient facilities.
  • Facilities for mental health
  • Schools
  • Home health care services


Occupational therapy vs. physical therapy, which one do you need?

The type of therapy you need depends on your condition. If your health condition is affecting your walking or moving body, you might need physical therapy. It reduces pain (have any) and increases;

  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Motion

If you have a disorder that makes it difficult to walk or move a body part without discomfort, you should consult a physical therapist. They can help you reduce pain and increase your mobility, power, endurance, and range of motion by using focused exercises, stretches, and other techniques.

Perhaps you’ve realized that you’re having difficulty executing daily chores like picking up things or getting dressed. Practicing with occupational therapy practitioners in this scenario might assist in strengthening the motor skills required for these specific jobs.

It’s necessary to talk with your doctor about the best sort of therapy for you. They can guide you through the advantages of each treatment and which one is most suited to your circumstances.



Is occupational therapy more complex than physical therapy?

Regarding your journey to becoming an OT or PT, PT therapy school is now more thorough and will require a Ph.D., while OT therapy school will require a Master’s.

What sorts of venues do occupational therapy practitioners work in?

Hospitals, specialized clinics, nursing homes, and schools are the most prevalent sites for OTs to work.

What Is the Difference Between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

The most fundamental distinction between physical and OT is that PT focuses on increasing patients’ capacity to move their bodies. In contrast, OT focuses on improving the patient’s ability to conduct everyday activities.


Physical therapy and occupational therapy in Las Vegas

Rehabilitative treatment includes physical therapy and occupational therapy. They have similar aims and treat many of the same problems, but they also have differences. Physical therapy is concerned with restoring or improving mobility, strength, and range of motion. Occupational therapy seeks to enhance the motor skills required to complete daily tasks. Your ailment and needs determine the sort of therapy you pick. Again, working together with your doctor can assist you in determining which treatment is most suited to you and your objectives.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy are to help patients recover and increase their quality of life. The one you need is up to your condition and the doctor’s opinion.

The article explained well the differences and similarities between the two of them. Now you know which one to choose when you need recovery or rehabilitation.

If you need physical therapy or occupational therapy in Las Vegas, Health and Care professional Network has provided the best in-home occupational and physical therapy services in the area since 2006. Give us a call at (702) 871-9917 to reserve therapy sessions and receive further information.

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