Healthy Living

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

Key Takeaways

  • Occupational therapy is a treatment focused on helping people with cognitive, physical and a sensory disability to lead an independent life. 
  • Physical therapy is a rehabilitation therapy which involves the usage of movements and mechanical force in order to improve and promote a normal function, mobility and a good life after an injury, accident or any disability.
  • Both occupational therapy and physical therapy are customized to suit the needs of each patient. 

Therapy is synonymous with treatment, which means that it is a course of action taken to correct a particular health problem. As with other fields, there are different approaches to therapy such as occupational and physical therapy. They are both recognized professions and the practitioners must be certified by the responsible body such as the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) in the US.

Usually many people wonder about the relationship between occupational therapy and physical therapy. In general, there is also a confusion when it comes to these two professions, some thinking that these two are the same. Despite having a similar goal which is to rehabilitate an individual from a health problem, there are several distinct differences between the two approaches. Continue reading and find out more about the significance and differences between these two professions.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a treatment focused on helping people with cognitive, physical and a sensory disability to lead an independent life. It is good to know that occupational therapy is not just for adults. Children can benefit from occupational therapy too. The following areas are treated with the help of occupational therapy:

  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Bathing and showering
  • Personal hygiene
  • Care for others
  • Meal preparation
  • House working
  • Medication management
  • Safety and emergency problems
  • Religious and spiritual expression
  • Shopping
  • Sleeping
  • Job performance
  • Social life, etc.

It looks like occupational therapy involves in almost all aspects of a human’s life.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a rehabilitation therapy which involves the usage of movements and mechanical force in order to improve and promote a normal function, mobility and a good life after an injury, accident or any disability. Before the appropriate physical therapy is suggested, various examinations and diagnosing tests are necessary. This is addressed to improve the ability of movement and functional performances in their daily life. Physical therapists are well trained professionals who are in charge of physical therapy.

Physical therapy techniques include:

  • Injury prevention
  • Exercise to strengthen the muscles
  • Pain management
  • Electrical stimulation, traction, ultrasound, as well as heat and cold therapy in order to relieve the pain and fasten the recovery
  • Manual therapy in order to improve the range of motion and flexibility
  • Education of the patient about their condition, etc.

Occupational therapy vs. Physical therapy

Even though both these therapies are closely related to patients and focus on the improvement of their life, differences do exist. On the other hand, similarities are shared too. For example, educating people on how to prevent possible injuries. In general, both occupational therapy and physical therapy are involved in the recovery process after an injury or accident.

Extent of care for the client

Physical therapy involves only about the recovery of the body, but occupational therapy is concerned with the mental state of the client too. A physical therapist is trained to analyze a patient’s physical condition after an injury, then formulate a plan that will help them gain their physical mobility. This involves the strengthening of the affected body region in order to allow the client to recover fast.

An occupational therapist is also trained to do the same – to help regain the client’s physical abilities. However, an occupational therapist must also be aware of the client’s state of mind, which means that they also have to assess the client’s mental health and create a favorable plan for recovery. Simply put, a PT’s duties end when the patient’s physical goals are met, but an occupational therapist must assess how the client is feeling and be able to adjust the physical sessions accordingly.

Level of involvement

The relationship between a client and a physical therapist ends at the end of the session, but an occupational therapist will be involved further more. Both the physical therapist and occupational therapist can visit the client’s home if there is a need, but only an occupational therapist can recommend changes to the home which they feel would be beneficial to the patient. For example, an occupational therapist may recommend the installation of rails around the house to help the client move more freely, safely and comfortably.

Parties involved

A physical therapist gets to deal with the client directly, but an occupational therapist may also need to meet with the friends and family of the client. Since the PT’s job is to ensure a tip-top physical health, the friends and family of the client do not need to be involved. On the other hand, an occupational therapist may have to include the friends, relatives and guardians of the client if they feel their help is required. Not only will they be involved, sometimes they may even have to be trained on certain skills to practice on the client when the occupational therapist is not around.

Conditions addressed

The primary role of the physical therapist is to help the client regain their physical strength. This could be after a surgery or injury. They are also needed to help the patient recover quickly and to get over the medication. An occupational therapist may also get the same call, and they are trained for that, but that is not all. An occupational therapist may also be called to help a child with a learning disorder or a soldier with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Therefore, an occupational therapist is not limited to physical recovery alone, but can also be useful in managing psychological issues too.

As mentioned, a lot of people are confused when it comes to occupational therapy and physical therapy. However, it is quite good to know that both occupational therapy and physical therapy are different treatment options which focus on different things and approach the patients from different angles. They both share certain similarities too, especially when it comes to educating the patient about their condition and how to avoid injuries. Furthermore, both therapies play an important role in the recovery process after an accident or an injury.