The Difference between Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy

11 Jun, 2021

The differences between physiotherapy (pt) and occupational therapy (ot) are often misunderstood as both work in rehabilitation settings, however both target different aspects of rehabilitation. For example, physiotherapists and occupational therapists both work towards improving mobility but target this in different ways. In this instance, PT involves improving the movement of the human body, whereas OT focuses on techniques to restore the patient’s ability to perform daily tasks.

The two professions also have very different terms and conditions related to restoring quality of life. Physiotherapy typically targets gross motor movements such as gait, and occupational therapists focus more on fine motor tasks where they are required to apply themselves in more intricate ways to achieve a task focusing on smaller motor movements.


Difference between occupational therapy and physiotherapy


Physiotherapists (physios) improve gross motor skills. These are skills that require the whole body to move and involve using large muscles groups in the body. Physios help patients with mobility issues to perform daily functions. These functions include running, standing, walking, and sitting upright.

The main goal of a physio is treating a specific condition of the patient. Their treatment involves lessening the pain, improving mobility, aligning joints and bones. At the discharge of physiotherapy treatment, the patient should be able to perform regular movements to the best of their ability. Physios can use massage, exercise, and other techniques to intervene with patients.


Physiotherapy health care treatment involves treating patients with issues caused by injuries or medical conditions. A customised treatment program focuses on the specific needs of the patient.

Physiotherapy techniques can restore muscle functions and reduce pain. Physiotherapists can use such treatment techniques to substitute expensive medication or surgery. Physios look at the patient’s mobility, focusing on patients’ posture, movement, safety, and alignment.

Physiotherapists work with patients on the following skills:

  • Functional mobility
  • Endurance
  • Orthotics and equipment training
  • Pain relief
  • Gait mechanics
  • Gross motor skills
  • Motor control and planning
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Balance & coordination
  • Body awareness
  • Wound care

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist’s (OT) goal is to help a client complete daily activities as independently as possible through using a broad holistic approach to improving function. Patients that suffer from both short and long term cognitive or developmental impairments, disability, injury, or illness that impacts functional performance should consider OT intervention

The OT profession uses treatment techniques that have the end goal of improving functioning in different daily activities. OTs work with patients on the following skills:

  • Self-care tasks
  • Executive functioning
  • Sensory processing abilities
  • Visual-spatial awareness
  • Gross motor skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Body awareness
  • Visual-motor integration
  • Fine motor skills
  • Attention
  • Motor planning/ praxis
  • Hand-eye coordination

Both physios and OTs provide crucial hands-on rehabilitative techniques. The techniques assist clients in performing daily tasks, which means both OTs and physios are physical therapists.

PTs work in various settings involving activities of daily living. However, both fields use distinctive approaches like exercises, stretching, and physical therapy techniques to assist patients in getting back to their everyday healthy living.

Gen Physio provides both mobile physiotherapy and mobile occupational therapy. To find out more or to book get in touch with us today on 1300 122 884.

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