If you have undergone an injury or illness that affects your movement, you may be referred for both physical therapy and occupational therapy. There is a great deal of confusion between the two, and some people believe that they are the same thing. However, there are some significant differences as well as a few similarities. Here is what you should know.
Physical therapy treats disorders of functional movement. This may be done in a variety of ways, such as hands-on manual therapy, exercise, and external treatments such as heat or ice. The primary goals of physical therapy are to alleviate pain and restore functional movement in the affected bodily structures.
Occupational therapy also focuses on functional abilities, but rather than directly treating injuries or illnesses, occupational therapists look at how the condition affects the patient’s ability to interact with the external world. The primary goal is to increase independence by modifying the physical environment and training the patient to use adaptive equipment. An occupational therapist may conduct site assessments of the home and work location to provide specific, detailed recommendations.
Both physical therapists and occupational therapists are heavily trained in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Both are capable of assessing functional movement disorders and developing individualized treatment plans to improve patients’ quality of life.
In addition, both specialties are heavily focused on patient education. Physical therapists often recommend assistive devices, such as a cane or wheelchair, and help patients brainstorm ways of adapting their home and work environments. Likewise, occupational therapists often educate patients on healthier ways of moving their bodies to help reduce the risks of reinjury.
In many cases, physical therapists and occupational therapists work together to ensure the best possible patient outcomes. Since the two fields have a great deal of overlap, this is a natural and comfortable fit. Yet each field has its own unique way of looking at functional movement and returning patients to full independence, allowing each therapist to contribute specialized knowledge.
Whether you are referred for physical therapy, occupational therapy, or both is ultimately up to your physician. The decision will be largely based on the unique details of your case, along with your overall health and your personal goals for treatment. If you feel that you could benefit from one or both types of therapy, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a referral. Communicating your thoughts and needs is the best way to ensure that you get the healthcare that is right for you.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for pain or injury, call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.