If you’ve undergone surgery, had a work-related injury, or simply struggle with day-to-day tasks, you may have gotten a recommendation from your doctor for occupational therapy and/or physical therapy. But then you may start to wonder, what exactly is physical therapy or occupational therapy? Why would someone need one service or both? Henry Community Health is here to help unravel the mystery and give you an understanding of these important services and the role they can play in your overall health. 

What is physical therapy? 

Physical therapy, also called PT, is focused on helping a patient with mobility. That means a physical therapist’s goal is improving movement. 

What is occupational therapy? 

Occupational therapy, also called OT, is focused on helping a patient with day-to-day tasks. That means an occupational therapist’s goal is to improve your ability to function in your everyday life and the different environments you may encounter. 

Why do I need physical therapy? 

Physical therapy may be necessary for a variety of reasons. You may need physical therapy because of a specific condition you have or treatment you’ve received, such as: 

  • Problems with muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Back pain or neck pain
  • Rehabilitation for joint replacement surgery, such as a knee or shoulder replacement
  • Hand/wrist/elbow pain from injury or other conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cystic fibrosis
  • General recovery from surgery or a traumatic medical event like a heart attack or stroke

The list goes on, which shows how helpful physical therapy can be if you’re struggling with movement and are experiencing a lower quality of life because of it. 

Why do I need occupational therapy? 

Occupational therapy, just like physical therapy, may be recommended for many reasons. Since occupational therapy is focused on daily tasks rather than movement alone, there is some overlap with physical therapy but also some key differences. You may visit an occupational therapist because of one of the following conditions or needs: 

  • Recovery from surgery 
  • Arthritis
  • Recovery from a stroke
  • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Caregiver training

As you can see from the list, occupational therapy dives into some different areas of movement than physical therapy and can often involve more detailed functional movement and life skills. 

How are physical therapy and occupational therapy the same? 

PT and OT are similar in many ways. They both require a licensed medical professional. They also both confront conditions and goals that relate to a patient’s quality of life and their ability to move as needed on a daily basis. When you work with an OT or PT, you can also expect a tailored treatment plan designed for your specific goals that will evolve as your needs evolve. PT and OT are so complementary, in fact, that you may be referred for both services. Many physical therapists and occupational therapists are highly experienced at coordinating care between one another and other medical providers. If you are receiving orthopedic services specifically, it is highly likely that your orthopedic team/practice will include both physical therapists and occupational therapists. 

How are physical therapy and occupational therapy different? 

Physical therapy and occupational therapy may sound practically the same, but their differences are important and worth noting. Physical therapy will target movement in all its forms. This could include range-of-motion for your shoulder, for example. A physical therapist may use their time with you to target specific movements you do on a daily basis, such as reaching for something on a shelf. This is where some overlap occurs with occupational therapy. An occupational therapist also works on specific movements, but they also provide help with doing specific tasks. For example, they may work with a patient who has suffered a stroke to perform detailed daily tasks, such as putting on clothes or taking a bath or shower. They also can help a patient with things that combine movement and thought processes, such as how to write and create a grocery list. 

How do physical therapy and occupational therapy relate to orthopedic services? 

If you are receiving orthopedic care, it’s possible that your orthopedic provider may recommend physical therapy and/or occupational therapy. Since orthopedic care has to do with bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, it is directly related to many of the conditions treated by both physical therapy and occupational therapy. In fact, if your orthopedic practice includes PTs and OTs, then you know you will get the most comprehensive treatment plan possible. A whole team will be coordinating your care and communicating with one another so that your needs and goals can adjust as needed. 

If you’re in need of comprehensive orthopedic services that include access to physical and occupational therapy, then you can count on the providers at Henry Community Health. Our team is well-rounded, highly experienced, and backed by the latest technology to give you the best results possible. You can search for a provider or a location near you by simply selecting the specialty “orthopedics.”