Though physical therapy and occupational therapy both use similar methods to help patients, each has its own goals and end result. In this overview, we will look at how physical and occupational therapy work together, the methods used, and what types of patients each therapy is designed for. Let’s begin with physical therapy.
A physical therapist, also called a physiotherapist, offers rehabilitation methods for those who need to gain strength, balance, or improve a number of other physical conditions. Those who benefit from physical therapy have often suffered trauma from an injury, disease, illness, movement disorders, arthritis, or possibly older age.
The goal of physical therapy is to help a patient return to normal activity with renewed and hopefully improved strength, balance, and coordination. The following is a list of possible equipment used during physical therapy:
- Treatment tables for manual, hands-on treatment.
- Exercise ball for stretching, balance, and core strength.
- Resistance bands for strengthening specific muscle groups.
- Treadmill for gait and movement disorders. Treadmills also get the blood flowing.
- Exercise bikes help with flexibility, burning calories, and balance.
- TRX uses resistance and suspension to target certain areas, often the upper body.
- Ultrasound is used to detect sprains, contracture of the joints, tendonitis, frozen shoulders, and bursitis.
Now let’s look at the common methods used during physical therapy:
- Manual therapy can include massage or manipulation by the therapist.
- Exercise helps everyone, including physical therapy patients. It gets the blood flowing, the heart rate up, and helps those who need to lose weight.
- Traction therapy alleviates pressure on the spine and helps with numerous back conditions and pinched nerves.
- Hot and cold methods to reduce swelling and alleviate pain, tightness, and muscle spasms.
- Lasers are often utilized in physical therapy to stimulate healing.
- Hippotherapy is a form of physical therapy used to improve gait and balance.
These are the most common methods and tools used in physical therapy. Still, the medical industry is often improving and changing, and physical therapy does as well. Although some methods have been around for many years and will continue to be, others are added as we discover and test new innovative ideas.
An occupational therapist assists those suffering physically or mentally in gaining a greater ability to perform everyday tasks. Those who’ve suffered a stroke, live with autism, or have any other difficulty that interferes with the tasks in their daily lives benefit from occupational therapy.
Let’s take a look at common methods and tools used in occupational therapy:
- Spirometers are used to measure air capacity in the lungs.
- Medical screenings to make sure patients are improving.
- Physical movement to gain strength, mobility, and confidence.
- Home visits to assist patients in improving their ability to perform everyday tasks.
- Life changes and making adaptations at a patient’s home is often necessary to reach the occupational therapy goals. These may include wheelchair ramps, electrical appliances rather than manual ones, and any change needed at home to make daily tasks easier.
Most importantly, the occupational therapist comes up with individual plans according to each patient’s needs. One patient may need only to learn how to dress now that they’ve lost leg mobility, while another may need help in every situation, from getting out of bed to making food.
Physical therapists and occupational therapists often work together, forming a plan to help their patients. They naturally benefit each other, as the physical therapist focuses on strength, endurance, gait, and balance, and the occupational therapist focuses on taking those qualities and implementing them into everyday life activities.
For example, once the physical therapist has helped a patient achieve better balance and leg strength, the occupational therapist can then work with the patient on stretching to reach something from a higher kitchen cabinet.
Without being physically able to do things, the occupational therapist has a more difficult time helping their patient. In the same way, as an occupational therapist helps to improve daily activities, the physical therapist can move ahead with more difficult physical therapy.
Types of Patients
As mentioned earlier, a physical therapist helps those who’ve experienced some sort of trauma such as illness or injury, or those who have disorders that impact their movement. The occupational therapist may see the same type of patients, as well as those with mental disabilities. The following is a list of people who may benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy, or a combination of the two:
- Children and adults with autism
- Stroke patients
- Sports injuries
- Old age
- Car accident or any injury
- Those with autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis
- Down syndrome
- Cerebral palsy patients
- Parkinson’s patients
As you can see, both types of therapies help the same types of people. A diagnosis from a doctor usually confirms which therapy or therapies are needed.
Physical Therapy as an Alternative
Physical therapy often helps patients avoid certain surgeries or medications. As a pain medication alternative, it can help with the following:
- Sports injuries or other injuries
- Visceral pain (from our organs)
- Somatic pain (muscle, bone, tissue, joints)
When possible, physical therapy for pain management is a healthy alternative to medicines that can have negative side effects.
As a possible alternative to surgery, physical therapy may help with the following:
- Lower back pain
- Spinal stenosis
- Osteoarthritis in the knee
- Meniscal tears
- Carpal tunnel
- Degenerative disc disease
It isn’t always possible to avoid surgery. However, physical therapy is a non-invasive solution and should be considered in certain situations before deciding on surgery. Always consult with your doctor before choosing to avoid pain medication or surgery.
Understanding how physical and occupational therapy work together helps patients, as doctors consider different solutions for helping them or the one they love.
At Chariot Innovations, we believe in physical and occupational therapy as an excellent solution for those with movement disorders. We designed the MiraColt to replicate hippotherapy, for the purpose of assisting with gait training for stroke patients, as well as patients with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. Contact us and let’s discuss how hippotherapy using the MiraColt can help you, a loved one, or your medical practice.