The Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapy

Morgan Grant

Occupational and physical therapy have a lot of similarities. Both occupational therapist and physical therapists can be involved in injury treatment, but each may have a slightly different approach. If you’re wondering why your employee is seeing an occupational therapist instead of a physical therapist (or vice versa) this article may help shed some light.

What is a physical therapist?

Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who specialize in the movement of the human body. PTs treat people of all ages who have injuries that limit movement and their ability to perform functional activities in their daily lives. They use treatment techniques that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. PTs also work with patients to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness programs for healthier, more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists provide care in a variety of settings including hospitals, private practices, sports and fitness facilities, and worksites.

What is an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists (OTs) work with other members of the health care team on the assessment and treatment of conditions that affect someone’s ability to perform daily tasks ranging from self-care to high-level, job-related activities. OTs design treatment plans and assist patients with a variety of functional activities to improve function, visual, cognitive, and general coordination skills.

The goal of occupational therapy is to facilitate a patient’s ability to perform with the highest degree of independence possible.

What is the difference between occupational and physical therapy?

Generally, physical therapists specialize in how the body moves. If a worker has lost mobility due to an injury, they’ll help them get that back. They can even help prevent lost mobility with fitness and stretching programs. Occupational therapists are focused on treating things that keep patients from doing daily tasks. These can range from simple tasks to complex job activities.

Occupational therapists are also more likely to have a hand therapy certification (although physical therapists can have one, too). As described by the Hand Therapy Certification Commission, a “Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is an occupational therapist or physical therapist with a minimum of three years of experience who have successfully passed a comprehensive test of advanced clinical skills and theory in upper quarter rehabilitation.”

Full recovery from an injury can be difficult without appropriate medical treatment. Physical and occupational therapists can help workers recover much faster than if they were just resting on their own - leading to fewer lost working hours. Therapy can also reduce the need for specialist treatment and other services, resulting in reduced overall cost and better long-term management.

If you’re interested in learning more about physical and occupational therapy and how they can benefit your workforce, contact us today.