It is important to understand the differences between a physical therapist vs occupational therapist. Both of these medical professionals are therapists but they focus on different outcomes and health concerns. Every medical office is going to offer different services as well.

At Bridge Physical Therapy, we offer a range of services such as dry needling, KT taping (Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape), postural evaluations, balance training, SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment), joint mobilization, and spinal/soft-tissue manipulation. We also believe in patient education and frequent assessments to precisely treat each patient and their health concerns.

Below are several different items that you should consider before deciding between physical and occupational therapists:


Seek Professional Medical Advice

There are a lot of different voices out there that all have different opinions. Your neighbor and some of your family members probably have opinions about medical advice as well. It is easy to feel pressured to go see a certain doctor or a specific facility. If you find that you are feeling pressured or not sure what to do, go see a trusted medical professional.

Even if you just visit your family doctor, they should know what direction to point you in. They can give you some recommendations on doctors they trust. Your insurance company can help you see what doctors and facilities are covered on your plan. You should feel confident that you are getting the best care for your specific health concern.



The difference between a physical therapist vs occupational therapist is educational background. Most physical therapists have a graduate-level first-professional degree; to be a practicing physical therapist, you need to be licensed. In order to do so, you must graduate from an accredited physical therapy school after getting your bachelor’s degree. You can also go the academic route and get a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Rehabilitation Science.

Occupational therapists have a wider range of education. A master’s degree takes about two years, and can be followed by a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Occupational Therapy; a post-professional degree is available to occupational therapists as well. It is about two to three years. They will graduate from an accredited occupational therapy school. The certification is different for each state but all states require the national examination certificate. Since they are more specialized, they may have extra schooling for that specialization.


Main Goals

You will want to have some reasonable goals when going to a physical or occupational therapist. If you want to have a pain-free life, you may want to set achievable goals to get to that point. You may want to have your pain go down or not have it be as consistent as it is. That is a reasonable goal. Once that goal is met you can set another achievable goal.

You want a medical professional who is going to have the same goals as you do. The best way to make sure you both have the same goals is to communicate. If they do not know what your goals are, their plan for you may not be aligned with your goals. Once you have communicated, your goals and their plan of recovery for you should line up.



In general, an occupational therapist is going to be more specialized than a physical therapist. Occupational therapists deal with helping people get through their day. They focus on daily tasks such as getting dressed, eating, and doing a job. This is for fine motor skills that can be hard when you have certain disabilities. You can find occupational therapists in hospitals and different medical facilities.

A physical therapist is all about movement, injuries, and recovery. They focus on the way the body moves and mobility. The overall goal with physical therapy is to get you moving again and have great mobility and range of motion.


Your Comfort Level

You may not be ready to make an appointment with a provider. That is okay! Everyone is different and feels ready at different times. Doing research and seeing what is available is a great place to start. Figure out the specific differences between a physical therapist vs occupational therapist before you make an appointment.

If you do have a serious and debilitating injury, you will want to make an appointment as soon as possible. This is where your family doctor will come in handy or the doctor who has been overseeing and taking care of you.

At the end of the day, you want to find a doctor and practice that you are comfortable with. Your relationship with your doctor is important. You want to be comfortable enough to communicate and express your health concerns.


Be Patient with Yourself

There is no magic pill or silver bullet when it comes to health and wellness. Your body is great at healing but it is going to take some time and patience. Healing is a process that will take months and sometimes years. It is easy to become frustrated with yourself and others. Being patient will help your health journey by not adding additional stress or negative emotions.

Whether you decide to go to a physical or occupational therapist, they will give you exercises. Consistency is going to be vital for your body’s healing. If you want to see results and healing, you need to follow their instructions and exercises. Most of these exercises and practices can be done in less than half an hour. Make these exercises a priority because they will help the healing process.

If there is no improvement or pain relief, let your therapist know. That way they can adjust your plan and you can get the help that you need. Your therapist cannot read minds, so be sure to communicate your needs and worries with them.

The main difference between a physical and occupational therapist is what you want to get out of your therapy sessions. An occupational therapist is going to be more specialized for specific health concerns. A physical therapist focuses on sports/everyday injuries and mobility. You can choose what is best for you. It is important to seek professional medical advice while deciding what doctor to go see.

Do you think you can benefit from seeing a physical therapist? Check out our services and be sure to make an appointment. Our professional staff is more than happy to answer any questions or concerns that you may have.


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