The Difference Between OT and PT


While there is some overlap in the tools and techniques that rehabilitation service providers use, occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) have a very different purpose overall and require different practitioner skills.

At United Methodist Communities, licensed occupational and physical therapists work together to bring the highest level of care to residents and those who are here on a short-term basis. Here’s some insight into what these two important therapies are all about.

What is physical therapy?

PT is used to diagnose and treat physical dysfunction that affects movement, mobility and stability caused by injury or illness. If you ever have a sports injury, a knee replacement, suffer whiplash, or hurt your back, it’s highly recommended to see a physiotherapist for treatment. Treatment will be customized to your diagnosis and graded to your ability. In general, the goals of physical therapy are to:

  • Support the best levels of physical wellness, activity, mobility, and health
  • Help prevent issues from worsening or reoccurring
  • Manage health conditions effectively
  • Help speed up the healing process after illness, injury or surgery
  • Prevent functional decline

To put it simply, it’s all about getting someone moving and to make that movement pain-free. Physiotherapists will ensure their residents move their bodies in a way that supports joints, muscles, and tendons properly.

How do physiotherapists treat you?

Treatment always starts with a thorough assessment in order to develop a program that works best with your particular needs. Physiotherapists develop a program that may consist of mobilization and manipulation techniques (physical adjustments), as well as massage and acupressure.

This program doesn’t just treat your pain — it addresses the source of the pain in order to treat your issue more effectively. These combined treatments will also relieve stress and pain from strained muscles, improve posture and strengthen your weaker areas.

For people who have undergone surgery or a debilitating illness, PT is critical for rebuilding the strength and muscles needed to regain movement, mobility and independence. PT is safe for anyone at any age, and is used extensively to help seniors regain their health faster, speed up healing processes and stay independent for longer.

What is occupational therapy?

OT is an equally important form of therapy. Occupational therapists help people regain basic skills needed in everyday life, from self-care (dressing, eating, and bathing) to speaking, working, studying, or playing sports.

They work with people who have suffered illness or injury that caused them to lose lifelong skills and abilities. For example, many people have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, orthopedic injuries, and loss of limbs. These events can devastate a person’s quality of life, independence and sense of purpose — and OT can help regain what was lost.

How do occupational therapists treat you?

Due to the nature of these health issues, occupational therapists combine treatment and counselling to help re-engage people with their lives. As with the physiotherapists, they will start by performing a thorough assessment. Not only to get a clear idea of the challenges the person is facing, but also to develop a treatment plan that works with their goals.

This treatment may include OT sessions in which people are advised to:

  • Perform basic exercises to help re-educate the brain and body
  • Acquire special equipment to help make daily tasks easier
  • Make changes to daily life tasks that work better for particular conditions
  • Make adjustments in the living space to ensure it is as safe and risk-free as possible.

OT is also critical for reducing health risks, whether it’s improving motor skills to help prevent falls or helping people on ventilators regain their eating skills to prevent choking.

Every person is unique and responds to treatment differently, so OT is very flexible. The therapist will continually evaluate the progress made towards their goals and change therapy as needed to best support their improvement and wellbeing.

OT & PT at Bristol Glen

Ultimately, both physical and occupational therapy share the goal of making a person’s life easier, healthier and just better! At Bristol Glen, our team of therapists are a wonderful resource for permanent and short-term residents, helping people to resume a full and independent life as quickly as possible. If you want to find out more about occupational or physical therapy, contact us today or visit our website at

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    200 Bristol Glen Drive

    Newton, NJ 07860

    Phone: 973-300-5788

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