How Is Physical Therapy (PT) Different From Occupation Therapy (OT)?

Have you ever wanted to become physical therapist? But you are confused if you should take occupational therapist instead? True, a very fine line separates an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. People are often confused with the two and think they are the same. Both fields are under healthcare, specifically under rehabilitation. They help injured and disabled people regain function. But with regard to how they do it is where that line thickens.

Occupational therapy is focused on enlightening an injured or disabled patient his skills. They teach the patient how to cope with their injury or disability despite their circumstances. They show the patient what they can still do. For example, a patient may break his leg and get a cast on his broken leg. What the occupational therapist will do is teach this patient how to move around despite a broken leg. Perhaps, he would teach the patient how to use crutches or a wheelchair. Basically, the occupational therapist provides options to continue living a life as normal as possible.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, treats the actual injury. They help patients heal faster with whatever injury they have. They are the healthcare professionals that train you to perform normal activities again. For example, after the patient’s cast from his leg is removed, generally, the patient has difficulty walking or cannot walk at all. The physical therapist helps this patient relearn that skill of walking so that he can return to his normal functioning. Another example would be for a stroke patient. Stroke patients sometimes lose function of their limbs. The physical therapist is there to make sure that the patient does not lose his muscle due to inaction, a condition known as muscle atrophy. After the stroke patient gets better to move about, the patient is taught again to use those limbs. Perhaps, to use his hands to eat, to comb his hair, to lift objects.

Now, why do these two professions exist separately? Simply put, not all injuries can be cured or healed. In addition, while an injury is under treatment to heal faster, the patient still does have things to do. They need to get on with their lives and cope with the handicap. The physical therapist will help you get back on your feet faster. The occupational therapist will help you cope while those circumstances exist. The two professions go hand in hand to help a patient get better.


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