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The Difference Between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Many people use the terms occupational therapy and physical therapy interchangeably. While there are some important similarities between the two, occupational therapy and physical therapy are two entirely distinct types of rehabilitative treatment. Do you want to find out which one is right for you? Here, our experienced Wisconsin physical therapists provide an overview of the most important differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy.

What is Physical Therapy (PT)?

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines physical therapy as treatment of an injury or other health condition through the use of physical treatment methods such as

  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Application of ice/heat
  • Exercise

In some cases, it is an alternative to drugs or surgery. Though, physical therapy can also be used in conjunction with medication and/or surgery. The key point to know about physical therapy is that treatment is focused on the patient’s specific impairment or injury.

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) defines occupational therapy as a holistic form of rehabilitative treatment that is focused on helping patients improve their ability to effectively perform their desired activities of daily living (ADLs). Occupational therapy frequently involves some type of psychological or mental health-based treatment to support the patient. It is often a full-body experience, and not solely focused on a distinct injury or impairment.

The Key Difference Between OT and PT

As a general rule, the purpose of physical therapy is to treat a specific injury or specific health condition. Physical Shoulder injury from bench pressmethods of recovery are used to help patients return to their previous form. In contrast, occupational therapy is a holistic form of treatment that helps a patient find the best way to function in their day-to-day life considering their current physical and mental condition.

Patients May Benefit From PT, OT, or Both

Depending on the nature of your injuries and your recovery, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, or both. A physical therapist is typically the most helpful when a person is expected to make a full return from an injury. A good example of this would be a 25-year-old athlete who recently tore their ACL. Through physical therapy, this type of patient can usually make a full recovery.

Occupational therapy helps people deal with the effects of their condition. It is especially useful for patients who are likely to suffer long-term, possibly permanent effects from an injury. Of course, many patients fall somewhere in between this spectrum. For some people, it can be helpful to work with both an experienced physical therapist and an experienced occupational therapist.   

Set Up an Appointment With Our Milwaukee Physical Therapists Today

At Wisconsin Medical Group, our Milwaukee physical therapists work tirelessly to provide the best rehabilitative patients in Wisconsin. If you need occupational therapy or physical therapy, our medical professionals are here to help. To arrange your appointment, please contact us today. We have locations in Downtown Milwaukee, Northwest Milwaukee, and West Allis, and we serve patients throughout the region.

Call Now! (414) 253-4119