Occupational therapy vs. physical therapy

Occupational therapy vs. physical therapy

The month of April celebrates occupational therapists across the nation. But have you ever wondered what the difference is between occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT)?

health enews checked in with Sarah Stern, a pediatric occupational therapist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., to find out about the differences between these two therapies.

Defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association, OT is the practice of assisting people with mental or physical disabilities through strategic rehabilitation to allow them to perform activities required in their everyday life.

“We help people do whatever their occupation is,” Stern says. “So for kids, we’re helping them develop to their best potential so they can just be kids.”

Stern says that OT helps children to function in areas where they have never had abilities, like developing fine motor and sensory skills, like eye contact or strengthening attention span. She says that OTs develop individualized plans that help people function at their highest level of independence.

Physical therapy, Stern explains, is helping children and adults to get back on their feet after illness or injury. Physical therapists specialize in the physical mobility of the human body, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. PTs focus on reducing pain and increasing strength and movement in patients.

Stern adds that many times OTs and PTs work together or “co-treat” to best benefit the individual.

“Because every person has specific needs, sometimes the most effective solution is to combine treatments of occupational and physical therapy or occupational and speech therapy,” Stern says.

These criteria make for a constantly changing and challenging environment for therapists.

“I get to go to work and witness miracles on a daily basis,” she says.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.