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Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

If you’ve been injured at work and been told by a doctor that you need to undergo therapy, the terms occupational therapy and physical therapy might be confusing.

Occupational therapy and physical therapy are two distinct types of rehabilitative care that seek to improve a person’s condition after an illness, surgery or injury. While there are similarities in the two therapies, such as both provide hands-on treatment tailored to each patient’s individual needs, there also are distinct differences.

The primary difference is occupational therapy focuses more on how a person performs daily tasks and activities and physical therapy focuses on a person’s ability to perform a movement of a specific body part that has undergone trauma, such as a bone fracture or a ligament tear. Occupational therapy focuses on fine motor skills and physical therapy focuses on improving gross motor skills.

Main goal of occupational therapy is to help patients engage in everyday activities

The main goal of occupational therapy is to help patients engage in everyday activities in areas such as self-care, homemaking, leisure, play and socialization. Occupational therapy treats the entire person. It is not related to a person’s occupation.

An occupational therapist focuses on strengthening and training a patient in the activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, self-feeding, grooming, toileting and medication management.

A physical therapist will identify exercies to strengthen functional mobility

A physical therapist will identify exercises to provide strengthening and training in all aspects of functional mobility, including range of motion, strengthening, neurological re-education, posture, positioning, coordination, balance, and bed mobility. It helps people cope with pain, increase range of motion, improve endurance and develop gross motor skills.

An occupational therapist also might make changes in the home, such as adding handrails and grab bars, adding ramps or replacing doorknobs with levers. Occupational therapy enables people of all ages to live life to the fullest by helping them recover from or live better with injury, illness or disability.

Occupational therapists also work with people who have developmental or cognitive disabilities affecting their motor skills, emotions or behavior.

A person suffering an injury or long-term health problems like back pain, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis would need to undergo physical therapy. Physical therapy often focuses on preventing injuries or managing their condition so that they can attain long-term health benefits and avoid a long-term reliance on medications.

Occupational and physical therapies are distinct, helping people facing separate challenges

So while the two appear similar at first glance, they are two distinct types of therapy that help people facing separate challenges.

Cass County Medical Care Facility has physical and occupational therapists available seven days a week to help patients improve their quality of life.