People confuse the roles of physical therapists and occupational therapists (OTs). While both PTs and OTs play important roles in helping people heal from injuries, recover strength, flexibility, and function, their focus is dramatically different. Physical Therapists typically evaluate and treat patients who have injuries, birth defects, and medical conditions. OTs address those same challenges, but their role is to teach patients how to become more independent in their everyday tasks and lives.
A PT would work on stretching muscles and improving mobility to reduce pain and stiffness, or to heal an injury. The OT would help that same person re-think or re-learn his or her daily activities at work and around the home. If you’ve had a hip replacement, for instance, the PT would help you regain strength and mobility, and then teach you how to walk to the kitchen. The OT would teach you how to easily do the things you need to do in the kitchen. If you think of it by name alone, the “physical” versus “occupational” is very descriptive of the difference between PTs and OTs.