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What is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?



How much do you know about occupational therapy and how much do you know about physiotherapy? Both are rehabilitation services however there is a difference: physiotherapy focuses on recovering physical function and occupational therapy has the focus on helping people perform the tasks of daily living, e.g. dressing, cooking, cleaning, driving, etc… Both therapies are essential after major surgery or an illness that limits body or brain function.


Many people believe that it has to be one or the other, but in reality the synergy of both is very beneficial, as each discipline approaches patient care in a different way.


Occupational therapy and physiotherapy: the importance of integrated treatment in rehabilitation.


In a hip operation, the physio for example works on muscle strengthening and balance, while an occupational therapist teaches patients how to dress with limited movements, decide what support equipment they need during recovery and adapt their dressing, bathing, toileting and grooming habits during recovery. As patients progress and mobility improves, physio and therapist also adapt treatments and counseling to progress.


“Physiotherapists and occupational therapists work very well together, as we both have the same goal, but different approaches. The end is to help patients achieve their goals and assist in the process of improvement and healing.”


“The physical-functional alterations are complex, often requiring a double intervention, since the musculoskeletal structures must be prepared, strengthening them, helping them to move, balancing muscle tone, alignment and control of the same, and in turn, train the movement within the function, that is, within the activities of daily living, developing an appropriate praxis, adjusting muscle tone, aligning and stabilizing posture within each vital task, with adaptations and support products that the child needs (orthoses, technical aids, etc. ).


That is why Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are “one”, moving towards the same objectives, in a coordinated way, each one contributing the knowledge of their discipline, which is always interrelated”.


We will now show you what each one means and their similarities.


Physical therapy


Physical therapy consists of treating the patient’s deficits that prevent him/her from performing the necessary mobility in his/her daily life. Its main objective is the movement of the human body necessary for the patient to be able to live as functionally independent as possible. For example, a patient who comes to physical therapy for a knee injury will probably not be able to perform the same daily tasks, such as climbing stairs, that he or she did before the injury. The emphasis of physical therapy is to assist in the healing process and educate patients on posture, body mechanics and other prevention strategies, while addressing deficits, such as muscle weakness, decreased muscle activation, impaired balance and proprioception, and decreased joint mobility, in order to provide interventions to return the patient to previous functionality.


According to the portal www.sportsinjuryclinic.net, the most common injuries in an American game are:

Occupational Therapy


The term “occupational” includes work-related activities, recreational activities, activities of daily living and social interaction.


Occupational therapy addresses these areas that may be affected by injury, such as repetitive strain injuries, a leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in the United States. Focusing on education, an occupational therapist will provide effective strategies to improve your ability to perform your daily activities by improving strength, endurance, movement and task practice. If necessary, they will train patients in learning new tasks, such as learning a new way to put on a shirt if their limitations no longer allow them to dress as before.


Similarities in physical and occupational therapies.


Although the focus areas of physical and occupational therapists are different, both play a critical role in patient rehabilitation. Both therapies address deficits and limitations with therapeutic exercises and activities to improve strength, endurance, muscle activation, balance and proprioception, etc. Educating patients and caregivers through hands-on training is essential for both occupational therapists and physical therapists. They can provide training in ergonomics and body mechanics, home exercise programs, and knowledge about preventing further injury.


If you are not sure what direction you should go, feel free to contact us.

We would be delighted to help you.


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