It’s far from uncommon for someone to wonder, “Is physical therapy or occupational therapy better for me?” Many individuals assume they are the exact same thing, but that isn’t quite right. However, they do have similarities in that both types of professionals help people better function after an illness or injury. Today, we will look at the differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy so you can determine which is right for you.

What an Occupational Therapist Does

When you see an occupational therapist, their job is to treat you as a whole. They work with people who have cognitive disabilities or developmental issues as well as those who are recovering from injuries. The primary purpose of an occupational therapist is to help you better engage in your daily life on all levels.

Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to look at how a patient’s ability to participate in activities is limited as well as their environment and roles. This professional will offer rehabilitation, promotion of wellness, and habilitation.

What to Expect from a Physical Therapist

On the other hand, a physical therapist is someone who focuses on the biomechanical reasons for a person who is impaired. This type of professional helps a patient improve their mobility, lessen their levels of pain, and align joints and bones for a more active lifestyle. Their primary focus is to prevent injuries and help people avoid surgery while avoiding a need for long-term medication use.

As an example, let’s say you love heading outside to hike and camp with your children, but a herniated disc in your back makes that impossible. A physical therapist will help you with stretches and exercises you can do at home to help alleviate the pain and speed up your recovery time. Physical therapists work with people of all ages and backgrounds to help perform functional activities through their daily lives.

The Difference Between OT and PT

The most significant difference between an occupational therapist (OT) and a physical therapist (PT) is that a physical therapist focuses on gross motor function while an OT focuses on helping patients perform meaningful tasks by improving cognitive and fine motor skills.

A physical therapist is trained and educated in how motion, exercise, and positioning affect the different systems of the human body. They also have extensive training in body mechanics as a whole. Most of the treatment options offered by a PT are focused on improving balance, strength, and range of motion in order to allow better bodily movement. Many of the treatments focus on the lower extremities and the spine.

An OT will instead work to help patients engage in various activities including but not limited to homemaking, self-care, play, leisure, and socialization. This professional typically receives training across a large variety of areas. While occupational therapists may help with physical exercise, they also focus on things like memory, problem-solving, keeping to a routine, organization, using community resources, and social skills.

Choosing Between a Physical Therapist or an Occupational Therapist

If you are suffering from an illness or an injury, you may be curious whether you should go with a PT or an OT to help you find relief and move on with your life. The truth is that each of these professionals helps individuals heal while offering insight into how to prevent setbacks and avoid further injury. Both are also capable of providing individualized care plans specific to your needs.

It all boils down to what sort of help you need, whether entirely physical or if emotional and behavioral health assistance is required. Good luck!