Many people don’t realize that there is a difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy since the two fields are so similar and often work in tandem, as they can here at Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy. The truth is that although occupational therapy and physical therapy both work to improve your life and have many similarities, they have different focuses and scopes. It’s said that physical therapy is what will help you go about your day-to-day life, while occupational therapy is what will help you accomplish your daily tasks.
Here’s what you need to know about the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy, in what they are, in what they do, and when a medical professional would recommend you see one over the other – or work with both an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. Let’s dive in!
How Is Occupational Therapy Different From Physical Therapy?
It makes sense that people confuse these two practices and often don’t know that there’s a difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy. At their core, the goal of both occupational therapy and physical therapy is to help your quality of life. Both occupational therapy and physical therapy help people who have been injured or who have had their ability to move and go about their lives impacted. There is overlap between the two practices, hence how people can get them confused.
The difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy can be simplified to: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. While a physical therapist can help you walk and move easier so that you could get to the store, an occupational therapist would help you with the tasks you’d need to get done once you’re there, such as making a grocery list, getting things off the shelves, and the like.
The Goal Of Occupational Therapy
The goal of occupational therapy is to help a person live as independently as possible. Occupational therapists help patients with their ability to perform their day-to-day tasks. Typically, people who have developmental or cognitive disabilities, who have suffered from a stroke or an injury, or otherwise have had their fine motor skills affected and struggle to get dressed on their own, to take a shower, and to otherwise go about their daily life will see an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy helps people with all the various tasks that can “occupy” their lives. They help with the fine motor skills that affect how you handle and manipulate objects, improve your hand-eye coordination, learn basic tasks such as eating, emotional regulation and management, and more.
The Goal Of Physical Therapy
The goal of physical therapy is to help a person manage their pain and improve their range of motion and how they move their bodies. Physical therapists also help people recover from injuries, but they focus moreso on gross motor skills, such as with actions that require full body movement or that need the big muscles of your body in order to go about daily functions, such as walking, sitting, and standing.
Typically, people who have been injured, who have a disability, who have undergone surgery or childbirth, and other such conditions that impact how you move will see a physical therapist in order to recover. Physical therapists help with managing and regulating pain, improving muscular strength, increasing endurance, and improving your range of motion.
Basically, the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is that occupational therapy focuses on your ability to perform daily tasks while physical therapy focuses on your ability to move with ease.
Occupational Therapy Versus Physical Therapy: Which Is Right For You?
Although there is overlap between the two, in how they both aim to improve your body’s overall functioning and your overall quality of life; in the conditions they treat; in their hands-on approach; in the fact that both of them use stretches and exercises; and in the fact that in both, you set goals and monitor your progress towards them, they’re not the same. Whether you see an occupational therapist or a physical therapist will ultimately depend on your specific conditions and concerns.
If you’re struggling to perform your day-to-day tasks, occupational therapy could be the right choice for you. If you’re struggling to move without pain or strain, a physical therapist could help you. It’s important to consult with your doctor about your specific concerns so that they can advise you on the best type of therapy for your needs.
Here at Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy, we offer both occupational therapy and physical therapy. We’re here to help you improve your quality of life, whether that be in recovering from an injury or in helping you develop the skills to bathe on your own. Contact us today to learn more about the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy and which one would be most beneficial for your specific needs.