PHYSICAL THERAPY, also known as Physiotherapy or “PT,” is the directed application of gentle force to improve the function and mobility of the musculoskeletal system. The work is performed by Physical Therapists, specialists trained in the art and science of examining, diagnosing, and treating problems related to the performance of physical activities. Physical Therapists utilize various treatment modalities including exercise, manual manipulation, traction, assistive devices, therapeutic massage, thermal treatments, and ultrasound. To become a Physical Therapist, one must first complete an undergraduate degree before spending 3 additional years to acquire a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. PT specialists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and private clinics, and often specialize in a particular area such as Neurological Rehabilitation, Orthopedics, Sports, Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, Vestibular Rehabilitation, or Pediatrics. Many Physical Therapists also work with Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA) who serve under their direct supervision in providing patient care.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY, or OT, differs from Physical Therapy in that Occupational Therapists help patients improve their ability to perform day-to-day tasks, commonly known as activities of daily living or ADLs. While PTs help to restore function, OTs work on improving a patient’s adaptation to work or home following injury or illness. Most Occupational Therapists have a two-year master’s degree (MOT), though some pursue advanced training and secure a doctorate (OTD) degree.
Physical Therapists are typically called as expert witnesses to analyze the standard of care for Physical Therapy treatment. If an allegation of negligence arises, specialists from Orthopedic Surgery or other medical fields will typically address issues of causation and harm. Occupational Therapists are required less frequently, but may speak to issues of functionality at work or home following a period of rehabilitation.