News   //     //   Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What You Should Know

Written by Heba Muqtadir | Edited by Mel Quist

At Insight Comprehensive Therapy, we offer both occupational therapy and physical therapy services. Although the two disciplines of therapy share many common similarities, there are distinct differences in how patients are treated. Let’s take a closer look at both types of therapies, the benefits they offer, and how they differ from one another. 

Strong patient with therapist
Patient at Insight Comprehensive Therapy Photo by: Siraj Usmani | Insight Creative

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

Therapist helping patient
Therapist helping patient. Photo by: Siraj Usmani | Insight Creative

Occupational therapists focus on helping a patient perform their daily tasks more easily. They also focus on fine and gross motor skills to ensure a patient can perform day to day tasks. Occupational therapists like to mimic tasks you may be doing at work, school, or home to ensure you can do them optimally. 

When you work with an occupational therapist, you can expect to develop, recover, and improve activities of daily living with the ultimate goal of becoming more independent. Additionally, occupational therapists educate caregivers on how to care for someone going through OT. 

Some of the common diagnoses treated by occupational therapists include loss of balance, chronic pain, hand conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger. Developmental conditions like autism, learning disorders, and intellectual disabilities, as well as neurological conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and traumatic brain injuries can also be treated by OT. For example, an occupational therapist may help a patient after a stroke relearn how to perform daily tasks like dressing, eating, and cooking. Their main priority is to help the patient return to normal life. 

What is Physical Therapy (PT)?

Aqua therapy
Aqua Therapy Photo by: Siraj Usmani | Insight Creative

In contrast, physical therapists focus on treating a patient’s movement, mobility, and function. Physical therapists use a variety of exercises, stretches, massage, and other physical activities. 

When you work with a physical therapist, some of the main goals are to improve or restore movement, strength, and range of motion, decrease pain, and prevent conditions from worsening. You can also expect physical therapists to educate patients on how to maintain fitness. 

Some of the common diagnoses treated by physical therapists include improving mobility after an injury, strength training following a surgical procedure, chronic pain, and joint conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Physical therapists also treat other conditions like cancer, urinary incontinence, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and traumatic brain injuries. For example, if a patient recently had a knee surgery, the patient would start physical therapy to help strengthen and increase range of motion in the knee joint. Physical therapy will also help decrease pain and discomfort. 

What are their similarities?

Overall purpose and design: Both occupational therapists and physical therapists work with their patients to deliver hands-on rehabilitative care to heal injuries or movement disabilities.

Conditions: There is considerable overlap on diagnoses that occupational therapists and physical therapists treat, which is why patients are often seen by both. 

Tasks: There is overlap on how occupational therapists and physical therapists treat their patients, whether through ultrasound, massage, stretching, or exercises. 

Goals and Monitoring: Both disciplines of therapy focus on setting goals and assessing your progress monthly. 

How do I know which type of therapy is best for me?

Determining the best approach to therapy is based directly on your condition and what you need to get better. If your condition is affecting your ability to walk or sit up straight, you may want to consider physical therapy. If you’re having trouble with daily tasks such as picking up objects or getting dressed, working with an occupational therapist can help. It is imperative to consult your trusted healthcare professional to help determine your best course of action.

What makes Insight Comprehensive Therapy different from other therapy offices near me?

Insight Comprehensive Therapy’s staff is committed to ensuring we treat patients and live by Insight’s eight core values: love, energy, execution, loyalty, innovation, adaptability, ethics and integrity, and teamwork. We strive to ensure a positive experience for each and every person that comes through our door. Our therapists also stay connected with your referring provider to ensure your care is optimal and approved by your physician.

As you can see, PT and OT share many similarities, but also have many distinct differences. To determine which discipline is right for you, be sure to consult your referring provider. For more information on Insight Comprehensive Therapy, visit our website or call us at 810-275-9610.


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