Difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and occupational therapy both are the types of rehabilitative care. Rehabilitative treatment aims to improve or avoid the deterioration of your condition or quality of life because of an injury, surgery, or disease.

While there are some parallels, there are also significant variations between physical therapy and occupational therapy. This article will look more closely at both types of therapy, the benefits they provide, and how they differ.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists work with people to adapt, adjust, or change daily activities that they are needed or wish to accomplish. OTs may accomplish this through changing the activity, the surroundings, or the person's skills. An OT may be able to assist patients improve their fine motor abilities based on their ability level. Fine motor skills are little motions performed with your upper body.

Many daily activities require them, such as picking up a toothbrush and brushing your teeth, cutting your food with a fork and knife, getting dressed, using a smartphone, or driving. An OT may improve abilities in patients with mental health issues by boosting the adoption of positive coping mechanisms that allow the patient to work or be successful in school.

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists are movement experts who aims to improve people's quality of life by recommending exercise, providing hands-on care, and educating patients. They are also problem solvers who are dedicated about getting their patients back on their feet.

Physical therapists work to restore mobility, reduce discomfort, and improve gross motor skills, all while encouraging function and independence and preventing disability. Gross motor abilities are employed in the movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other big body parts and are normally acquired in childhood.

Similarities between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Despite their distinctions, PT and OT are similar in certain aspects. These are some examples −

  • Overall goal − Both physical therapy and occupational therapy strive to improve your overall functionality, quality of life, and understanding of how to maintain your health and well- being.

  • Tasks − The tasks done may have some overlap. Occupational therapists, for example, may also teach stretches or exercises. Physical therapists may work with patients on motions that will aid in daily activities such as getting in and out of the tub.

  • Goals and monitoring − Both types of therapy establish goals and track your progress toward achieving them.

  • Conditions − The health conditions for which both the therapy may be suggested overlap significantly.

  • Design − Both types of therapy give hands-on care that is tailored to the unique needs of the patient.

Differences between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

The following table highlights the major differences between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy −


Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy


Occupational therapy, usually known as OT, focuses on making daily chores easier to do.

Physical therapy, abbreviated as PT, aims to improve your movement, mobility, and function.


Some of the things that may be engaged in OT are −

  • Assisting you in learning or relearning how to conduct daily routines such as dressing, eating, and bathing

  • Examining your home, school, or business for ways to make regular activities easier

  • Instructing you on how to use assistance devices like wheelchairs and walkers

  • Assisting you with fine motor skills tasks such as writing or buttoning a shirt

  • Teaching you on how to get into and out of chairs, beds, and bathtubs safely

  • Demonstrating activities, you may do to assist develop flexibility or minimise discomfort

  • Providing you with programmes that will assist you in returning to work

Physical therapy includes many methods, like the following −

  • It involves teaching targeted exercises

  • Assisting you and helping you in stretching

  • They will provide you hands-on manipulation

  • Informing you on the application of hot and cold

  • They will give you massage wherever you needed on the body

  • It involves ultrasound if required

  • Electrical stimulation is also a way to do this

When they are required

When a disability or sickness impairs your capacity to do daily duties, OT may be prescribed. Some circumstances for which OT may be employed include −

  • Recuperation following an accident or surgery

  • Treatment of pain

  • Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and stroke recovery are examples of neurological conditions.

  • Hand ailments such as carpel tunnel syndrome and trigger fingers are example of joint conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), learning problems, and intellectual disabilities are examples of developmental conditions.

  • Depression and anxiety, as well as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, are examples of psychological illnesses.

When a problem impairs your movement or range of motion, physical therapy is frequently advised. PT can be used for the following purposes −

  • Increasing mobility following an injury

  • Recuperation from a medical treatment

  • Treatment of pain

  • Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis are examples of joint conditions.

  • Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke recovery are examples of neurological diseases.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis are two examples of lung diseases.

  • Heart diseases such as heart failure and heart attack recovery

  • Cancer


An occupational therapist, for example, may assist someone recuperating from a stroke in relearning how to conduct daily chores such as dressing or eating with utensils.

A person who has had knee replacement surgery, may visit a physical therapist as part of their recuperation.


So, how will you know which therapy is best for you? That is depends on your condition and your specific needs. Consult a physical therapist if you have a problem that makes it difficult for you to walk or move a body part without pain. By using focused exercises, stretches, and other approaches, they can help you reduce discomfort and increase your mobility, strength, and range of motion.

You may have noticed that you are having difficulties performing daily actions such as picking up objects or dressing. In this situation, working with an occupational therapist could help develop the motor skills required for these specific jobs. It is critical that you discuss with your doctor about the appropriate type of therapy for you. They can provide you with advice.

Updated on: 27-Jan-2023


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