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When to Make the Switch from Physical Therapy to Occupational Therapy

There is no substitute for independence. Often times, seniors suffer an injury or illness that impacts their mobility, and all of a sudden they lose a good measure of that independence. Physical therapy and occupational therapy offer a means to regain that independence. But how do they differ? And how do you know which one you need?


Helping You Move

Physical therapy is about helping you regain mobility, often following an injury, an illness, or a surgery. By “mobility,” we don’t just mean range of motion. A physical therapist’s job is to help patients regain strength, endurance, and flexibility as well. Many physical therapy patients find that their mobility is actually greater than it was before their injury.

We’re talking about physical therapy first because it comes first for the large majority of patients. The work you do in physical therapy serves as the foundation of what you’ll go on to do in occupational therapy. That’s because physical therapy is about more than simply regaining what was lost. Following physical therapy, patients have a lower rate of reinjury. They’re stronger and more flexible, and they have a greater understanding of how to move.

Once you’ve regained mobility, it’s time for occupational therapy.


Helping You Do

Occupational therapy helps you return to the activities you love, or simply the activities you long to do to regain your independence. This can include brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and cooking a meal. Often times, occupational therapists work to help patients regain the fine motor skills they’ve lost. These are the same skills that turn movement into activity.

Let’s take an example. Say that your hobby is woodworking, but a recent injury has left you unable to effectively open and close your hand. A physical therapist would help you regain the strength and ability to close your hand again, allowing you to grasp the woodworking tools you’ve longed to get back to.

However, there’s a good chance that, at first, you’d be able to do little more than simply grip the tool of your choice, with the fine motor skills needed to wield it now difficult or impossible to call upon. This is where occupational therapy comes in. An occupational therapist would help you regain the ability to properly manipulate your woodworking tools and get back to work.

When to Make the Switch

As we said, occupational therapy most often follows physical therapy. Your best indicator of when to make the switch? When your physical therapist recommends it. But there are some other things to keep in mind.

For one, occupational therapy is, for the most part, limited to the upper body. This is where you’ll look to regain those fine motor skills. If an injury or illness impacts mobility in your lower body, chances are you will deal with that exclusively in physical therapy.

In other instances, you may see an occupational therapist right away, bypassing physical therapy altogether. While physical therapy often precedes occupational therapy, this is certainly not the case 100% of time. Some scenarios in which you may skip straight to occupational therapy include suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.


Make an Appointment with a Skilled Therapist

Here at Princeton Health Care Center in Princeton, WV, we provide skilled physical and occupational therapy. Call us today at 304-487-3458 and let us help you figure out which one is right for you.


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