You’ve heard the terms occupational therapy and physical therapy bandied about and wondered what the difference was between them. There are a few similarities, but there are definitely differences and it’s important that you know those differences.
Occupational therapy focuses on evaluating and improving functional abilities. An occupational therapist usually works with a person to help them with their ability to live independently and accomplish daily activities following an injury or illness. They can and do provide direct treatment for injuries, but only in the context of improving life skills and helping the patient to resume normal activities.
Physical therapy is more focused on evaluating and diagnosing movement dysfunctions as well as treating the injury itself. They use tools like ultrasound and other types of therapies to directly treat the injury. A physical therapist will be more likely to diagnose and treat the injured tissues and structures.
The two do overlap
For instance, a patient who has issues with carpal tunnel syndrome may first go to occupational therapy for treatment which mostly includes looking at how to accomplish work tasks like typing in a manner that doesn’t aggravate the carpal tunnel. They suggest tools like wrist rests, computer placement and so on to help.
If the patient has to have surgery to treat the carpal tunnel, physical therapy will be used to facilitate healing regaining use of the wrist.
If you doctor suggest one over the other, ask why and if the other would also be helpful.