What is the difference between physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT)?
Long answer short: Physical therapy focuses on assisting a patient with body movement, and occupational therapy centers on helping a patient with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, walking and eating.
The medical fields of physical therapy and occupational therapy sometimes overlap, but they are also distinctly different in their approach. Essentially, PT treats people for injury, illness or physical limitations, while OT helps improve the everyday routines of those who are recovering from injury, illness or physical limitations.
How Physical Therapy Helps
A physical therapist is a licensed health professional who treats a person’s impairment by improving circulation, bone alignment, muscle strength and mobility. PT also decreases pain, inflammation and muscle spasms to help with overall body mechanics.
PT sessions may include a combination of ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, ice, heat, laser, massage, reconditioning exercises and weight training. The physical therapy discipline supports a number of sub-specialties including geriatric, orthopedic and cardiopulmonary.
How Occupational Therapy Helps
An occupational therapist is a licensed health professional who helps a patient develop, recover or maintain the ability to carry out everyday activities and work skills. OT involves hands-on rehabilitative work to engage individuals more fully in daily life.
OT also entails making adaptations to a person’s environment such as adjusting walker height, adding a shower bench or reconfiguring a computer workstation. The holistic OT approach also considers the cognitive challenges, emotions and behavior that keep patients from participating in their normal routines. Occupational therapists typically evaluate a client’s home, workplace or school setting to determine necessary training, adaptive equipment or life skills to help improve daily functioning.
Although PT and OT serve different roles, they both assist patients in the healing process and educate them on how to avoid and prevent injury and setbacks. Both PT and OT create individualized plans of care, which Right at Home caregivers can help monitor in the home or an in-patient care facility. Right at Home offers a free, downloadable PDF of services for special care situations that involve accommodating physical and occupational therapy care directives.
How has PT or OT helped your senior loved ones?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.