What is the difference between physiotherapy and occupational therapy?

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As if the body is not complicated enough! Sometimes we need different therapists to help return us to health.

You would have heard of physiotherapists (physios) and occupational therapists (OTs), but do you know who does what?

Physios and OTs are often placed under the same banner which, naturally, causes confusion.

Both practitioners do rehabilitative work with people who have restrictions due to inactivity, injury or disability. But the two are distinctly different.

Specialised techniques

Physios work mostly with mobility, while occupational therapists work with function in everyday life.

Physios use a combination of massage, exercise and other specialised techniques to prevent further injuries and long-term dependence on medications.

OTs, on the other hand, may introduce equipment or recommend environmental modifications that help individuals to carry out their daily activities.


An OT’s goal is to rebuild optimal function for participation in everyday activities; to enhance occupational engagement and participation.

In this speciality, the emphasis is on the practical aspects of helping individuals do the things they need and want to do so that they can live life to the fullest.

Critically, both professionals work together to increase the potential for optimal outcomes for individuals.

Rehabilitation for body and peace of mind

Last month, we worked with Dorothy.

Dorothy had a fall at home and had to go into hospital for treatment on her broken leg. She didn’t want to make a permanent move into an aged care facility because of all the wonderful memories she had at home.

Our physio met Dorothy out of surgery and immediately started to build a program to restore her mobility. When she was ready to go home (via two weeks respite in an aged care facility), Dorothy was already halfway through a strengthening program.

Our physio then referred an OT to take a look at Dorothy’s environment to ascertain how it could be adapted to avoid another fall, and to support the rehabilitation program.

The OT’s assessment allowed the physio to adapt the program for Dorothy through her fortnight in the aged care facility and then at home, creating a seamless journey on the path to rediscovering maximum functionality.

While the physio prescribed a series of strengthening exercises and stretches, the OT prescribed a ramp to Dorothy’s front door, along with handrails and grabs rails in her house, to make sure she could fulfil her wish of staying mobile, safe and happy at home.

Finding a better way

If somebody has osteoarthritis in their knee, the physio may implement a strengthening program to improve mobility, while an OT will assess the function. They will consider how the osteoarthritis might affect that person on a daily basis and how it could be easier to stand up and walk around, without targeting the condition.

We have more than 140 physios and a dozen OT’s who obsessively live The Physio Co’s core purpose ‘to help seniors stay mobile, safe and happy’.

Physios and OTs work really well together to restore mobility with maximum functionality and minimal risk of a relapse.

Finding a better way is what we do!


Interested in knowing more?

Please call on 1300 797 793 or email hello@thephysioco.com.au 🙂

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