Occupational vs Physical Therapy - What's the Difference?

OT vs PT

Some say that PT addresses the lower half of the body while OT addresses the upper half. Others say that PT works on gross motor coordination while OT works on fine motor.

Physical therapy focuses on big movements, it's generally true. Their goal is often to restore movement and mobility. They assess the ability to roll in bed, sit up, stand up, walk, maintain balance, etc. They use things like stretching and exercise, manipulations, electrical stimulation, heat, and cold to restore these movements.

Occupational Therapy focuses on restoring function. The idea is to help each person become as independent as they can possibly be. This starts with things like brushing teeth and getting dressed, self feeding, getting in and out of the tub, combing hair, or going to the bathroom. After that it extends to roles, jobs, hobbies, etc. OTs use many of the same mechanisms that PTs use to restore function - it's just the approach and the overall goal that might be different.

Most patients initially say that they want to be able to walk again. I ask them, "When you get to the door, how will you open it?"

Physical Therapy Reference Materials

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Comments 14 comments

MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 8 years ago from Sydney

Val is enjoying reading about you. Keep it up please


snarlmkiv profile image

snarlmkiv 8 years ago

nice hub. very informative. now i know the difference between the two.. i thought they were the same. http://www.siakoi.com/recreation/sports-in-beijing...


Geoff Barron 7 years ago

Clear, succinct explanation. Thanks a lot!


ahpoetic profile image

ahpoetic 7 years ago

We have Occupational Therapists in Elementary schools now. That helps kids deal with their stress. That's a great idea.


lesliedrawdy profile image

lesliedrawdy 6 years ago

Good general overview of the differences between OTs & PTs. Depending on the practice setting, it's hard to explain the difference between the two. Function has to be looked at by both disciplines, although the perspectives are different. For example, I tell all my PT students "It's great if someone can walk in a straight line for 150ft, but if they can't get into the bathroom or on/off the toilet on their own, does it matter?" In an ideal world, there is a lot of overlap with PT & OT, although the idea that PT focus is more on the gross mobility aspect of functional movements is right on.


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 6 years ago from Tampa Author

I use a similar analogy - "If you can walk to the door but you can't open it, what's the point?" :)


ArdorHealth 6 years ago

Great Article, lot of people think OTs and PTs are the same..


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 5 years ago from Tampa Author

A lot of people don't even know what OT is.


Rea 5 years ago

Very helpful!


M.Hanafi profile image

M.Hanafi 5 years ago from Egypt

Thank you for your analysis, and I do agree with you. We can't say one field is better than the other for patients in general as it depends on every case's condition.


Matt Stark profile image

Matt Stark 5 years ago from Albany, CA

Good info. I think both OT and PT are essential for many conditions such as stroke, amputation, and many neurological diseases. Both have unique skillsets essential for regaining function.


Sheryl 21 months ago

Hi Lindsay and Amy I really hope you reply even thuogh it has been 2 years since you've posted on here I'm so glad to have found this site. My name is Nichole and I am almost 23 years old, I have suffered with NDPH since I was 16. I was a Sophomore in high school, it was near the end of 2006 when I got sick with bronchitis and the flu and coughed and coughed and noticed I had a really terrible headache with it. Once the sickness went away I noticed that the migraine, that pain in my head that had been so foreign to me prior to this, had not gone away, and still has not to this day I had to be home schooled and quit all of my sports I was a part of My friends went on with their lives and forgot about me while I had a constant 24/7 pain that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried or how much it killed me, physically and mentally. We began with Chiropractors, decompression machines, adjustments, etc. I traveled hours to probably 20 different Chiropractors that all said that they knew what I had and exactly how to treat it. I've tried natural supplements, over the counter medications, 6 Occipital nerve blocks in the back of my head, massage, diets of no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, vegan only, all with no progress. My family understands the pain and how I can be ok one minute but then pick up something slightly too heavy, walk a little too fast, sit down a little too hard and I will have to be in my room with blankets over my windows and absolutely no sound because the pain is so unbearable. It is so frustrating because I too feel like a burden, like ok you have a headache so what? Why can't you stay out late or get up early or work long shifts or run around and be active? But it is so much more than a headache It's become a way of life and although I think I handle it well I know that deep down I am depressed and deeply saddened by it because anytime I stop to think about it or talk to anyone about it I cry instantly. Lindsay, I too have tried the things you have with no help and at Cleveland Clinic where they did my nerve blocks they told me about the program where you stay there for an amount of time. My option they told me about when staying there was a few weeks, they would put me on all these medications and steroid medications, have physical therapy and counseling as well. They also said the FDA would soon be approving the Botox injections, I'm sorry those did not help you either NDPH has altered my life drastically, I can't work as much, I can't run around and just be free, I can't take a full load of classes at a time Basically I just want to thank you for having this site Amy, it is really more helpful than you know, just knowing that I'm not the only one to suffer from this and that I'm not the only one that has this pain to think about every single second of every day Bless you and bless all your readers, may you all find relief from the pain -Nichole


Fannie 21 months ago

I love reading these articles because they're short but inmivfatore.


Iolani profile image

Iolani 6 months ago from USA

Nice Post. Thanks for website links and resources on Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. http://www.topoccupationaltherapyschool.com

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