There are many misconceptions about the relationship between Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physiotherapy (PT).
It is commonly thought that the two are synonymous, however, there are significant differences between the professions.
Occupational therapy focuses on a variety of functional and physical impairments. An occupational therapist may not directly treat the patient’s injury using techniques such as acupuncture or therapy like a physical therapist would. OTs will help a person build their independence and their ability to complete daily activities after an injury.
They often focus on improving life skills and directly treating injuries using adaptive tools that have been selected by the therapist.
The prime goal of the occupational therapist is to help people improve their ability to carry out daily tasks. OTs are trained to alter the physical environment, and also train the person to use assistive equipment to increase independence in contrast to physiotherapists who do on-site assessments.
One of the main components of OT intervention is strengthening the upper-body. Together with traditional weighted exercises, occupational therapists also use therapeutic activities to improve muscle strength and endurance. Activities like this can also target additional issues such as balance, safety, problem solving and following directions.
Below, are a couple of activities that can improve upper body strength in occupational therapy:
Initially, tossing a ball may be considered a child’s task. However, OTs may use a modified ball toss that will help strengthen your muscles. To begin with, tossing a lightweight ball, e.g. a beach ball, the patient would be increasing their range of motion and basic strength.
As the patient advances, an occupational therapist might use a heavier ball or weighted cuffs around the patient’s wrists to increase the intensity.
Alongside traditional dumbbell exercises, your occupational therapist will use an arm bicycle to improve arm strength. Starting with several minutes of arm cycling at a time, the OT will increase the intensity by turning up the resistant of the cycle or increasing the amount of time before a rest break. This opposing movement of the arms is also associated with increased balance while walking as it stimulates the opposing arm movements.
Both physical and occupational therapists are trained extensively in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system which makes both PTs and OTs incredibly knowledgeable about musculoskeletal injuries and rehabilitation than a general medical doctor.
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