Rehabilitative care is a type of treatment that aims to improve or prevent the worsening of an injury, surgery, or illness. This may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other treatments such as speech therapy. Yes, you read that right: contrary to popular belief, physical therapy and occupational therapy are not the same thing.
Also known as OT, occupational therapy essentially zeroes in on fine motor skills and making your home or school environment more optimal for your everyday life. The occupational therapist will also focus on improving your gross motor skills so you can carry out specific day-to-day activities.
An occupational therapist may help a stroke survivor re-learn some of their physical and mental skills, such as dressing, eating with utensils, and using the bathroom. An occupational therapist can also rearrange their home to make it safer, such as installing grab bars in the shower.
Physical therapists, also known as PTs, help people improve their movements, mobility, and function by using different physical activities and exercises. A physical therapist might help someone recover from knee replacement surgery by giving him or her a set of exercises and stretches to perform each day.
The physical therapist will work directly with the patient to restore their ability to walk normally and achieve a full knee range of motion. This can reduce the pain and swelling that has been troubling the patient. Overall goals for this include, but are not limited to:
- Decreasing pain
- Educating you on ways to maintain your overall fitness and functionality
- Improving or restoring movement
- Improving or restoring strength
- Improving or restoring range of motion
- Preventing your condition from getting worse
As such, PT is the usual recommendation when range of motion or movement is affected. Its uses vary widely. Examples of this are:
- Hand conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure and recovery after a heart attack
- Improving mobility after an injury
- Joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
- Lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis
- Neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and recovery after a stroke
- Pain management
- Recovery following a surgical procedure
- Urinary incontinence
OT and PT have a tendency to get mixed up. That’s likely because of all their similarities. Some of the main ones include:
- Conditions – Some health conditions have considerable overlap to the point of both therapies being needed all at once.
- Design – Hands-on care is available through both therapy types. It’s always customized to the particular needs of the patient.
- Goals – Both OT and PT involve setting goals towards a full recovery.
- Monitoring – When goals are set for either (or both) PT and OT, monitoring and assessment of progress is vital.
- Overall purpose – The general aims for both include quality of life improvement, better knowledge and to boost overall functionality.
- Tasks – Overlap is not uncommon here: OTs can teach exercises or stretches, while PTs zero in on daily activity’s movements including getting in and out of the bathtub as needed.
Contrary to popular belief, occupational therapy and physical therapy are neither the same thing nor are they interchangeable. Occupational therapy focuses on fine motor skills and optimizing a person’s environment for daily living. Physical therapy deals with a person’s range of motion and mobility.