What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants focus on treating and training patients’ upper extremities (hands, arms, and shoulders), as well as retraining or training patients on activities of daily living (ADLs), which are day-to-day tasks such as bathing, cooking, dressing, and so on. They also work with Physical Therapists to improve bed mobility (getting in and out of bed) and transfer skills.

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants treat patients ranging from infants with congenital problems to the geriatric population who have suffered from stroke, arthritis, orthopedic problems, and surgeries, or basically any patient who has limited use of their arms and hands causing problems with their daily lives and routines.

Many patients, relatives, and members of the community are unaware of what occupational therapy is. They are more familiar with physical therapy and mistakenly believe that OT (occupational therapy) is the same as PT (physical therapy).

Difference Between Physical Therapy vs Occupational Therapy

Physical therapists often treat the lower body, which includes the legs and back, whereas occupational therapists deal on the upper body, which includes the arms, hands, and shoulders.

Occupational therapy retrains and teaches patients who are unable to feed, clothe, or care for themselves by either strengthening their arms or examining for suitable assistive equipment that will allow the patient to accomplish ADL duties on their own or with little to no assistance.

Physical and occupational therapists both help with patients to teach them how to get in and out of bed, as well as transfers to and from the restroom and even to their automobiles.

Occupational therapists deal with fingers and hands, assisting patients with any functional activities that need the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

Physical therapists, on the other hand, aid patients in strengthening their legs, knees, and ankles so that they may stand up, do transfers, and walk with or without an assistance device (e.g. walkers, cane, wheelchair etc.)

Both PTs and OTs utilize modalities such as TENs, electrical stimulation, diathermy, hot moist packs, infrared, laser, and ultrasound to aid patients with pain or to stimulate their muscles in order to develop their strength.

Occupational Therapy is a part of the rehabilitation where all of these disciplines work hand in hand with the ultimate goal of getting the patient back to the level they were at before the hospitalization, incident, condition that afflicted them. It is an ever-growing profession because there are lot of patients and a projected increase on patients in the near future especially on the geriatric setting.

Where can you find Occupational Therapy Services?

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants can be found in a variety of contexts. In pediatrics, occupational therapists can be found in children’s hospitals, schools (special education), and even homes (home health).

Adults and geriatrics are often served by occupational therapy departments in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNF), nursing homes, assisted living facilities, outpatient clinics, and at home through home health services. Outpatient occupational therapists have a wide range of specializations, including hand therapy, pediatrics, geriatrics, and sports rehabilitation (focusing on therapy of athletes).

There is a need for occupational therapy services in every environment in the medical profession, and perhaps this article may help you comprehend and answer the question – what is occupational therapy, and what is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy.

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