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

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

Physical therapy‘s main focus is to improve patient’s 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.

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.

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 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;

  • Evaluation– evaluating the patient’s condition and their needs.
  • Purpose-the purpose of the two programs is to improve patient’s quality of life and understand the new condition.
  • Diagnosing-diagnosing a treatment option based on the patient’s condition.
  • Treatment-planing and implementing a treatment plan to improve the patient’s condition, health, and well-being.
  • Condition-there is an overlap between patient’s conditions that OT or PT might be recommended.
  • Education-providing knowledge, experience, education to patient and the family 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, 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


What does an occupational therapist do?

The ultimate goal of occupational therapy is to increase 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 relearn them
  • Help to use assistive devices (walkers, wheelchairs)
  • Assessing the place of residence, implement changes to complete tasks easier.
  • Training with movements inside the house, such as getting into or out of bed, chair, etc.


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 increase;

  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Motion

The therapist takes stretches or specific exercises, or other recovery methods he/she finds appropriate.

In case the patient can not complete the daily tasks, occupational therapy helps the motor skills needed for completing tasks.

You would better talk to your doctor about the appropriate therapy. He/she can explain the benefits of each program and recommend the most appropriate one for your needs.

Remember that skilled nurses or caregivers visiting your place of residence could also provide physical or occupational therapy as well.


Physical therapy and occupational therapy in Las Vegas

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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