Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy
Are You Seeing The Right Specialist?
Finally, our first blog post! We so are excited to share knowledge about our practice! We want to get right to answering the most common questions we get asked at our clinic. Let’s start with the biggest enigma: What is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?
Although there are some significant differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy, we think it’s important to look at these as being in a relationship vs. being completely different entities. In fact, there are quite a few instances when both specialties overlap. Ideally, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists should work together in order to help patients achieve the best quality of life possible. With that said, let’s break it down.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy focuses on helping people move better, reducing pain and regaining function through physical rehabilitation. It utilizes specific exercises to strengthen muscles and improve posture. Physical therapists will also select different stretches and utilize an integrated approach that includes modalities and manual therapy.
Physical therapists are experts in biomechanics and the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. In other words, their advanced degree focuses on learning everything about how the body moves. Patients are often referred to physical therapy by their primary care doctor, their orthopedic doctor, their pain management doctor or their neurologist in order to avoid surgery and relieve pain. When surgery is recommended, surgeons will work closely with a physical therapist to ensure the patient is properly rehabilitated and achieves the best surgical outcome possible. Physical Therapy promotes the idea that many times the body has the ability to heal itself with the appropriate treatment. It just needs help from the experts.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy does incorporate some of the same methods as physical therapy, but the focus is different. Occupational therapy refers to the word occupation, meaning “an activity that a person spends time doing.” You could also say, occupational therapy focuses on helping people get back to the daily activities with which they occupy their time. This can encompass everything from helping an injured employee get back to work, retraining patients on how to groom themselves, or slowly get back to their favorite hobby. Patients are referred to occupational therapy when they suffer pain and/or functional limitations due to a particular disability or disease as well as after trauma, surgery or laceration.
Some occupational therapists go on to specialize even further. At our clinic for example, our occupational therapist is also a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT). This means the occupational therapist has obtained an advanced degree specializing in treating the upper extremity. CHTs treat everything from the tip of the finger, wrist, elbow, all the way up to the shoulder. Many times this involves helping patients regain their fine motor skills. Finally, something special about occupational therapists is that they are highly trained in designing and fabricating splints, braces and postural aids to prevent repetitive injuries.
In conclusion both physical therapy and occupational therapy focus on restoring function, alleviating pain and helping patients achieve the best quality of life possible. The focal point of physical therapy however, is helping patients improve movement and mobility. While occupational therapy focuses on helping patients perform everyday tasks so they can live as independently as possible.
Believe it or not we are just scratching the surface of these topics. We can’t wait to go more in depth in blog posts to come! Please be sure to leave us your questions.
I had a very good experience with Mesa PT. I had an elbow injury and worked with the occupational therapists for two months. They were very flexible with scheduling which was awesome. After the diagnosis I wanted to start treatment ASAP. I called many different OT offices and no one could help me or see me for many weeks. Mesa got me in that same afternoon for my first session. Michelle, Jenna, and David did a great job guiding me back to health and provided wonderful emotional support during a stressful injury! Thank you, Mesa!
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