The West Ridge Blog

What Is an Occupational Therapist?

Posted by West Ridge Care Center on Jul 12, 2017 5:24:17 PM

Occupational Therapy & Rehabilitation

When rehabilitating from an injury or illness at a skilled care facility, patients work with a team of highly skilled and trained specialists to not only treat their injuries, but also to help them regain the skills needed to return to independent living. At West Ridge, our rehab team includes speech language pathologists, dieticians, nurses and of course—physical and occupational therapists.

While most people have some understanding of what a physical therapist does, many don’t know what an occupational therapist treats, how they treat it, or why they are so important to the recovery process.


What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists assist rehab patients in gaining or regaining the skills needed to perform everyday tasks on their own. In this profession, “occupation” refers to any activity a person is engaged in—from simple tasks like retrieving an item from the cupboard, to more coordinated activities like brushing your teeth, writing or bathing.

Think how much your life would change if, for instance, one of your arms suddenly became paralyzed. How would you tie your shoes? How would you maintain your balance sitting down and standing back up? And if it were your dominant hand, how would you adjust, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally to the loss of control?

This is where an occupational therapist comes in. In this scenario, they would help you develop strategies to continue living life as normally and as fully as possible.


What’s the difference between occupational therapists and physical therapists?

Occupational therapists and physical therapists are similar in a lot of ways:

  • Both work to rehabilitate patients after an injury or illness;
  • Both educate their patients and help them to develop strategies to prevent complications and re-injury;
  • Both professions require extensive education and training;
  • And both are essential to any rehabilitation team.

But there are several key differences between the two. Most notably, physical therapists treat the physical symptoms of patients using therapeutic techniques like massage and exercise, as well as specialized equipment.

In the case of a patient with a broken leg, a physical therapist would work with them to restore movement in the leg, manage pain, and prevent further injury; whereas an occupational therapist would work with the patient to help them complete tasks like getting dressed, either on their own or with the use of tools like “reachers.”

Furthermore, physical therapists—while they perform many overlapping duties as occupational therapists—are more focused on the biomechanics of recovery, whereas occupational therapists take a more holistic approach that also factors in a patient’s environment, emotions and behaviors.


Why you need both on your rehab team.

While there is some overlap between the duties of physical and occupational therapists, both are essential to regaining mobility and returning to an independent lifestyle. At West Ridge, physical therapists work closely with occupational therapists to address all facets of a patient’s needs—from the physical aches and pains to the stress and mental challenges that accompany them.


If you or a loved one are beginning the long road to recovery after an injury or illness, and you plan to recover at a skilled care facility, contact West Ridge to schedule a tour of our facilities and meet our staff in person! 


This blog contains discussion about health-related subjects, and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnose or treat any disease or illness. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your doctor immediately or call 9-1-1.

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Long-term Care and Skilled-Care Rehab Services for Elders in Cedar Rapids, IA 

West Ridge Care Center embraces a different approach to Elder care—one that centers around habitats that encourage growth at every stage of life. Follow our blog for the latest news and happenings at West Ridge, and information on our unique philosophy of care.


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