Occupational vs Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?

There are many types of therapies services, however, there has always been three specific types forming the foundation of therapy services, and they are the following. 

  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy

The Physical Therapist

This Physical Therapist works with the body from the waist downward. Physical Therapy is also called physiotherapy. This professional has many years of education at a university, must be board certified in the state they reside and must be licensed to work as a physical therapist. The primary goal of this therapist is to,

  • Provide exercises to promote, maintain, or restore an individual’s health to the highest possible level. 
  • This professional can perform a physical examination.
  • The PT can diagnose.
  • They can give the patient and their family a prognosis for the future. 
  • They encourage and provide patient and family educational concepts.
  • They provide physical interventions.
  • PT work with individuals to rehabilitate them back into society.
  • They apply approaches to prevent disease.
  • They promote the highest quality of health possible for the individual.

A licensed physical therapist is involved in research in the latest therapy interventions, teaches patient education, consults with patients and their families, and takes part in health administration. Physical therapy can be a stand-alone service or work in conjunction with occupational therapy and speech therapy if the patient needs these modalities and the doctor orders them. Some states and countries allow physical therapist to prescribe medication.

The Occupational Therapist

This professional Occupational Therapist works with the body above the waist. This therapist performs patient assessments and develops a plan of care structured around the person’s deficits. This plan of care is instituted to recover lost or decreased abilities involving extremities above the waist. The main goal is to help ease the person back into meaningful activities of daily living. This therapist can work with the individual on the job site, with groups, or communities of people. Clients are primarily those who have,

  • Mental health issues
  • Disabilities
  • Injuries and impairments.  

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, this highly educated and licensed professional helps all ages of individuals who yearn to partake of the things in life they most want to do but need direction and guidance. The therapist helps clients through the everyday activities required to maintain personal hygiene, a job, and a social network. Interventions are developed to assist children who have disabilities so the child can succeed in school and become an active part of social situations and events. The OT helps individuals going through rehabilitation due to injuries. They also work in support of seniors with Alzheimer dementia and are experiencing cognitive and physical changes.

Individuals who have congenital disabilities or have been permanently injured have many issues they need to deal with regarding massive lifestyle changes. These changes can bring pain and cause severe restrictions on that person’s life. This individual must learn to adapt if their physical disabilities because improvements are not likely going to change. The OT teaches that individual how to adapt to be able to live as independently as possible. Permanent disabilities make it a challenge for the person to work, go to school, perform personal hygiene tasks, household chores, participate in activities, and move from one place to another. 

It is the job of the OT to retrain the person on how to do some of these things again, but differently and how to adapt to a new lifestyle. The OT helps the individual with the following so that they do not have to rely on someone to do things. An OT expresses to the person the need for them to do as much as they can independently. 

  • Preparing meals and eating without assistance.
  • Participate in activities.
  • Join the workforce
  • Perform personal hygiene tasks
  • Do household chores such as the dishes and laundry without help. 
  • Instructs the patient in handling finances.

The duties of an occupational therapist are wide and varied. However, some OTs prefer to obtain advanced education so that they can focus on certain types of treatment such as,

  • Children
  • Seniors
  • The blind

What’s the Difference Between the Two?

We need to first look at the similarities between PT and OT services.

  • Both set goals to improve the lives of their patients.
  • Both strive to help each patient attain their highest functioning level while maintaining health, fitness, and wellbeing.
  • Both aim to increase the quality of life by improving the functioning of the upper and lower body
  • Both must provide hands-on care to the patient 
  • Both must develop plans of care tailored to the needs and goals of the patient
  • Both areas of therapy may at some point overlap

What are the Differences?

Lest see difference between the therapy services below:

The Physical Therapist

  • Uses an array of exercises to improve overall body functions, flexibility, mobility, movement
  • Works to strengthen muscles, flexibility, and range of motions, thus reducing pain and discomfort

The Occupational Therapist

  • Assists the patient to perform activities of daily living more easily
  • Works to increase and redefine fine and gross motor skills needed to accomplish activities of daily living such as personal hygiene tasks
  • It helps the patient overcome obstacles at school, at home, and work to achieve a higher level of functioning.

As an example, the OT has a responsibility to the individual entering stroke recovery to learn how to do simple activities again, such as

  • Dressing
  • Eating and handling utensils
  • Toileting
  • Bathing
  • Becoming mobile again

Professional Physical and Occupational Therapy Services

Come and check out our massive therapy department and let us know how we can help you or a loved one regain their independence. North Texas Medical Center is located in Gainesville, a full-service, level four trauma centre and teaching hospital. We are fiercely devoted to higher quality health care. Access our website for more information about the specific therapies we offer our patients. Come for a visit and speak with our therapy department about the services they provide and then let them know how they can help you achieve your healthcare goals.

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