Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy: What’s the Right Plan for Your Loved One?

Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy: What’s the Right Plan for Your Loved One?


Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy are two different treatments that often get confused. While there is plenty of significant overlap between the two, their goals and the means which they go about achieving them with their patient is the best way to decipher between the two. The easiest way to figure out if Physical Therapy (PT) or Occupational Therapy (OT) is better for your loved one is by defining the two and choosing which one your loved one needs based on their own needs and goals. 

woman in physical therapy

Physical Therapy

First, we’ll look at physical therapy together. PTs typically work at a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center. They work with patients on their specific physical condition from a bio-mechanical perspective. A PT’s main focus is to get the patient back on their feet and moving as soon as possible. Physical therapy works on improving specific impairments by increasing mobility, aligning bones and joints, and lessening pain.

Physical Therapy also focuses on preventing injury which can help postpone the need for certain surgeries that the patient may have otherwise needed. If your loved one has a specific ailment that they want a treatment plan for, with just a focus on that injury and how to improve movement in that specific area of the body, then physical therapy may be right for them. 


Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy, however, takes a more holistic approach to the discomfort your loved one may be experiencing. Occupational Therapy differs with Physical Therapy as PTs focus solely on the body, while OTs can focus on behavioral, cognitive, and emotional aspects as well. An Occupational Therapist will look at the whole person, regardless of specific injury or symptoms, in order to treat a person holistically. 

Occupational Therapy is a good option for those who want a more in-depth rehabilitation of other parts of their life along with any physical conditions they may have. Occupational therapy involves a personal evaluation and customized treatment plans to help patients reach their individual goals, and so occupational therapy may be better for your loved one if they are seeking a more personalized approach to their physical and cognitive ailments or changes. 

Both Physical and Occupational therapy focus on educating their patients on preventing injury and how to go about the healing process when you are injured. If your loved one is struggling to fulfill daily tasks, both Physical and Occupational therapy can be good choices in order to help them live life to the fullest once again. 

Speaking with a doctor or medical professional is always essential when it comes to making decisions related to your health but, ultimately, the decision is your loved one’s. Researching both options together and going through your loved one’s personal goals is the best way to decide if Physical or Occupational Therapy is right for them.