Occupational Therapy vs. Physiotherapy: A Primer for Anyone Considering Career Training

physiotherapy assistant training

When many people think of occupational therapy and physiotherapy, they often assume the two terms are interchangeable. This confusion may be due to the fact that both were originally part of the same profession known as reconstruction aides, which provided rehabilitation services to war veterans. As the profession developed, new practices and techniques began emerging which offered better, more comprehensive approaches to physical rehabilitation, introducing the different areas of occupational therapy (OT) and physiotherapy (PT).

The ultimate goal of both professions is to improve a patient’s mobility and quality of life. While the two provide similar hands-on rehabilitative services, they often use separate approaches to their work. This means that there are a few distinct differences you should know if you’re considering a physiotherapy or occupational therapy career. If you’re interested in finding out which one might be right for you, read on to learn more.

Physiotherapy Emphasizes Body Mechanics and Gross Motor Function

Physiotherapy operates around the core idea of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating the physical source of a client’s injuries. A focus on how the body moves and operates, known as body mechanics, is a defining feature of physiotherapy. Body mechanics involves gross motor function, which is a set of physical skills that helps coordinate the overall movement of our body’s muscles to perform certain actions, such as swimming, climbing, or running.

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A career in physiotherapy emphasizes improving the way the body moves and operates

If you want to become a physiotherapist assistant, it’s important to understand the context you’ll be working in. Physiotherapists generally work towards improving strength, balance, and range of motion, so if someone has broken their arm, for example, they might visit a physiotherapist to work with them and advise them on injury prevention—including what physical activities they should avoid as they heal—as well as help them practice exercise techniques to improve mobility in their injured arm.

Occupational Therapy Professionals Work to Improve Daily Living Skills

While physiotherapy focuses on overall body mechanics, occupational therapy trainig puts more emphasis on improving fine motor and cognitive skills. Fine motor skills are more particular than gross motor skills, and involve small muscular movements such as picking up objects between your fingers, writing, or turning the pages of a book. Occupational therapists—depending on their workplace setting—can include physical exercise in their work to promote the use of these fine motor skills, but they are more often focused on the cognitive side of physical rehabilitation.

Rehabilitating an injury is more than building back physical strength. It also involves the process of reintroducing and adapting yourself to your new physical environment. That same person who has broken their arm might visit an occupational therapist to improve their ability to perform daily living activities such as writing or buttoning their shirt with a non-dominant hand. OT professionals also assist their clients in areas such as self-care, homemaking, and socialization as a way to increase their overall sense of independence, as well as direct them to community resources that may improve their quality of life during and after their rehabilitation.

become a physiotherapist assistant

Physiotherapy training can teach students to treat clients in many areas of physical rehabilitation

Finding Common Ground with Physiotherapy Assistant Training

Although physiotherapy focuses more on the body itself, and occupational therapy on lifestyle, both are two sides of the same coin—physical rehabilitation. PT and OT professionals operate from the same principles of pursuing health and well-being through hands-on care and client education, with PT treating the body through the muscles, and OT treating the body through the mind.

Understanding how both of these practices work together to heal the body is important when starting your new physiotherapy or occupational therapy career, which is why physiotherapy assistant training offers the best of both worlds. Comprehensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy training teaches you the anatomical and physiological knowledge you need to perform the right physiotherapy techniques, while also allowing you to explore different subjects such as ethics and professionalism, psychology, and neurology, that can enrich the overall quality of your services.

Whether you decide to follow your interests into physiotherapy or occupational therapy, you can use the skills you learn to build your foundations to a long and rewarding career helping others through the healing process.

Are you interested in taking the next step towards a career in physiotherapy?

Contact KLC College for more information about our career training.