Occupational therapy vs Physical therapy

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapist helps the people to participate in such activities they want to do in daily life, they help the people with disabilities, mental health problems, impairments or injuries and promote their health through therapeutic use so that the people can participate in community. They help the people to enhance and maintain those skills which needed for their daily life activities.

For example, in case of disabled people who often need help to perform daily life activities like learning and functioning


  • Fine motor skills (Self-care routine)
  • The occupational therapist help them to motor skill development (e.g. dressing, eating)
  • In education level (Coloring, drawing skills, writing notes)
  • Gross motor skills (include balance, strength, awareness and coordination) it helps the child to participate in school activities also in home and society.

benefits of occupational therapy

Benefits of Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is beneficial because it improves an individual’s Independence, people don’t want to depend on others and want to take care of themselves while doing personal activities like bathing and dressing.


  • Improve strength
  • Improve vision
  • Boost memory and cognitive skills
  • Expert in adaptive equipment and home modifications
  • Physiotherapist help to restore, maintain the patient’s range of motion. They are highly trained health professionals and treat injury, illness through physical methods such as exercise, mobilization and manipulation

Problems treated by Physiotherapist

  • Physiotherapists assess, diagnose and provide treatment plans according to the patient’s condition.
  • Problems related to joints, muscles, bones, ligaments or tendons like arthritis, tendinitis, and myalgia.
  • Pain in neck and back because of tightness or spasm of muscle
  • Disabilities like cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy,stroke, epilepsy etc
  • Pelvic issue e.g. myofascial pelvic pain (MPPS)
  • Loss of muscle tone, strength, and mobility

benefits of physiotherapy

Fields for Physiotherapy

  1. Musculoskeletal: involves the treatment of muscle,joints,tendons, ligaments, nerves and manage mobility. Injury can be caused by accident,falls,sprain, strain or fracture. They actually focus on biomechanical and structural rehabilitation to increase the functional movements.
  2. Neurological: disorder related to the nervous system like stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Pediatric: There are various conditions like Spina Bifida,Torticollis,Cerebral Palsy cause physical impairment. Pediatric Physiotherapy assess, diagnose and provide treatment.
  4. Geriatric: help old age people with conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis by providing exercise plans to stay active, healthy and physically fit.
  5. Sports: branch of physiotherapy which deals with injuries of all levels and ages related to sports.
  6. Cardio: Improve heart and lungs health
  7. Women’s health: provide treatment plan and for pelvic pain to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle.

Similarities and differences

  • Both fields are often confused, occupational therapists and physiotherapists work together by treating similar conditions with the use of same treatment protocols.
  • Both improve the patient’s physical and cognitive conditions to carry out daily activities. They try to improve the patient’s quality of life.
  • Both teach patients on how to prevent injuries and illness.
  • Both try to improve patient’s ability to perform daily living activities.

For example:

  • In case of children, they both encourage the children by addressing functional play skills.
  • In clinical set-up, they help patients in orthosis and guide them for exercises to improve range of motion and strength.

In some cases, they work differently e.g in primary school, physiotherapists work on cp child to improve mobility and balance, on the other hand occupational therapists help them to learn(handwriting)and cutting paper.

The main difference between these two fields is that, the physiotherapist’s main focus is gross motor skills or improve patient’s ability to perform movement. While occupational therapists use cognitive skills, self-care skills,fine motor skills or simply improve patient’s ability to perform ADLs.

Physiotherapists trained in body mechanics and help people with injury, illness and disability through manual therapy, electrotherapy, mobilization and manipulation to manage pain, improve range of motion, balance, strength and maintain health for all people of all ages.

Occupational therapists help patients to perform daily routine tasks like dressing, bathing, combing hair, cooking, cleaning and driving. They work by using occupational activities (daily life activities) to rehabilitate their body’s muscle and improve cognitive skills.

For example 

In patients with hip replacement, physiotherapists help to move the patient from one place to another without any assistance (ambulation), improve strength, balance and mobility, reduce joint pain, and re educate normal gait. Physiotherapy treatment involves exercise to strengthen muscles of hip. While occupational therapists help patients to achieve independence in daily life activities, also work on teaching patients how to dress, or provide supportive equipment for dressing, bathing during recovery time.

In stroke patient, physiotherapist helps in tone management, gait and balance training, and fall prevention. Occupational therapist helps the patient to be able to return to their daily living activities because they help to re learn life skills e.g patient needs assistance in how to take shower with the use of adaptive equipment.

According to the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, which states that occupational therapy uses a holistic approach which includes health promotion, adaptation and rehabilitation. According to this approach the occupational therapist not only looks at the patient’s participation in daily living activities which are impacted but also the patient’s role and environment.

Physiotherapist treats patients from bio mechanical perspective.

According to st, Catherine University

A PT’s main goal is to get their patients back in motion with exercises, massage and other techniques. Their main focus on preventing injuries and helping people to avoid surgery and medications.

If a person wants to go outside to play with kids but can’t go because of herniated disc. So the physiotherapist provides treatment which includes exercise and electrotherapy that reduce pain , increase mobility and speed up recovery.

When a patient is recovering from illness or injury, it is difficult to differentiate between occupational therapy and physiotherapy that which one therapy is helpful in their recovery.

Where they work

They both work in private and public sectors e.g. in school, hospital, clinic, care center, research center or in many government agencies.

Although occupational therapist usually provide home services, they access people with disabilities and impairments and help them by providing devices, which use in daily living activities. While physiotherapist commonly work in clinics because of equipments like treadmill, shoulder wheel, traction table, and hydrocollator use for the treatments. They also provide home services but mainly because of heavy machinery they have separate private clinic.

In short, physiotherapists help to re-learn walking and occupational therapists help the patient to be independent.

If you are confused to choose whether an occupational therapist is suitable for treatment or physiotherapist, so the simple way to choose is that if you want to regain strength and mobility after injury or illness then physiotherapist is suitable for treatment, on the other hand if you want to making your daily living activities easier then occupational therapist will be the best choice of treatment


  1. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/therapies/occupational-therapy-what-you-need-to-know
  2. https://memorialregionalhealth.com/health-topics/primary-care-general-health/pt-ot-work-together-help-memorial-regional-health-patients-heal/