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Occupational Therapy Vs. Physical Therapy

For individuals seeking the most effective approach to rehabilitation, it is important to understand the differences between Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT), and how each can help you reach your goals, restore optimal function and independence.

OT vs. PT: What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists focus on enhancing an individual's ability to engage in activities of daily living. In order to overcome obstacles and increase independence for their patients, they focus on improving fine motor skills, cognitive functions, and adaptive strategies.

Examples of Occupational Therapy include:

  • Balance Training & Fall Prevention

  • Upper Body Strengthening

  • Hand Therapy

  • Assistance with Activities of Daily Living (grooming, dressing, bathing, etc)

  • Cognitive Rehabilitation

  • Sensory Integration

  • Patient & Caregiver Education

  • Assistive Technology Training (help using adaptive equipment i.e. shower chair, hand rail)

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists specialize in helping individuals improve and restore their physical function and target the musculoskeletal system. They are trained to identify impairments across movements and functional limitations. Physical therapists often utilize targeted exercises, manual therapy, and other interventions to alleviate pain, enhance flexibility, and improve strength.

Examples of Physical Therapy include:

  • Full Body Strengthening and Flexibility

  • Manual Therapy and Joint Mobilization

  • Cardiovascular Conditioning

  • Balance & Coordination Training

  • Post-Surgery Rehabilitation

  • Injury Prevention Programs

  • Chronic Pain Management (Chronic pain conditions, Lower Back Pain, Arthritis, etc)

  • Neurological Rehabilitation (Parkinson, Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis, etc)

  • Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: Key Differences


  1. Concentrates on the musculoskeletal & nervous systems, as well as restoring physical function across muscles and joints. Significant focus on reducing pain, and improving strength and range of motion.

  2. Focuses on joint mobility, strength, and overall physical movement.

  3. Involves exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility, mobility, and movement.


  1. Focuses on fine motor skills, adaptive strategies, cognitive function, and individuals' ability to perform activities of daily living. Like PT, OT aims to increase independence.

  2. Evaluates fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, psychosocial factors, and the ability to perform activities that are part of daily life.

  3. Involves activities to improve handwriting, dressing skills, cognitive strategies, and adaptive techniques to enhance daily living.

How to Know Whether You Need OT or PT?

Determining whether you need Occupational Therapy (OT) or Physical Therapy (PT) depends on each individuals goals and challenges. Here are some guidelines to help you discern which therapy may be more suitable for your needs:

Try Occupational Therapy (OT) if you:

  • Struggle with activities of daily living such as dressing, using utensils, or cooking.

  • Have difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing or buttoning your clothes.

  • Experience challenges in cognitive functions, such as memory or problem-solving.

  • Aim to enhance independence in activities of daily living (ADLs).

Try Physical Therapy (PT) if you:

  • Have musculoskeletal or neuromuscular issues that affect your movement or mobility.

  • Experience pain across joints, muscles, or overall physical function.

  • Are recovering from surgery or an injury that impacts your physical abilities.

  • Looking to improve strength, flexibility, and/or balance.

Consider a Combined Approach:

  • In some cases, individuals may benefit from a combination of OT and PT. If your challenges span both physical and daily living activities, a coordinated approach may be beneficial.

Functional Assessment:

  • Consider undergoing a functional assessment by an occupational therapist or physical therapist. Our therapists help evaluate your specific challenges and recommend the most appropriate therapy based on their findings.

Remember that these guidelines are general and that individual needs can vary. It's crucial to communicate openly with your therapist to determine the most effective and personalized therapeutic approach for your unique situation.

Contact Personal Care Physical Therapy to book your In-Home Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy appointment.

We serve you in live the following cities across South Florida: Port Saint Lucie, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Hobe Sound, Stuart, Jensen Beach or Palm City.

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