The Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

You have been in pain for far too long. You know you need help, but do you know what kind of help that you need? Two most of the most common types of in-home help include Occupation or Physical Therapy. Do you know the difference between the two? In the following article published by St. Catherine’s University, we will discuss the difference.

 

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.Occupational Therapist
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 foot after playing basketball and can no longer participate in your Wednesday night pick up league. While recovering, you could meet with an OT to get to the root of why you look forward to playing each week. Is it the exercise that’s important? Is it engaging with the people on your team? Your OT will help you to accomplish your goal.

Physical Therapist
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 into 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.

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