Kellie K. Middleton, MD

The Differences Between Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Sep 08, 2022
The Differences Between Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Physical therapy and rehabilitation share enough similarities to confuse people – but they certainly aren’t the same. There are enough differences between the two that you should not use the terms interchangeably...

Physical therapy and rehabilitation share enough similarities to confuse people – but they certainly aren’t the same. There are enough differences between the two that you should not use the terms interchangeably. This is especially true when someone has undergone a physical injury and has been given a related diagnosis.

If you have been recommended to undergo physical therapy or physical rehabilitation, getting these terms right is important. Here’s what you should know about the differences between physical rehab and physical therapy.

What is Physical Rehabilitation?

Physical rehabilitation is a process designed to treat patients who are recovering from injury or struggling due to physical disability or illness. It aims to hrestore any functioning that was lost or impaired via the injury or disability. This can often mean regaining and improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion, though it depends on the circumstances of each person.

Physical Rehabilitation

The goal is to help patients regain their physical independence and return to their normal lives, whether that means returning to the workplace in their regular capacity, being able to take care of their home, caring for their children, taking care of personal hygiene and grooming, returning to sports, and more. In essence, physical rehabilitation is just the term we use to describe the process of restoring a person’s physical capability.

Physical rehabilitation must be carried out by a certified professional, such as an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or speech therapist.

Physical Rehabilitation Treatments

There are many types of treatment that fall under the umbrella of physical rehabilitation. That’s because it covers essentially all treatments used to improve and restore physical ability.

Rehabilitation is typically used to treat people who have experienced injuries or disability that affects areas such as the joints, nerves, muscles, and ligaments. It can be carried out in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, at work or school, and even at patients’ homes.

Types of physical rehabilitation can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

While physical rehabilitation refers to a broad range of treatments used to restore physical ability, physical therapy is one type of treatment used to improve a person’s physical capabilities. It comes under the umbrella of physical rehabilitation and is often an important part of the rehabilitation process.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists specialize in restoring physical functioning, improving mobility, balance, and flexibility, and reducing pain. It is a common form of treatment for injured athletes in particular. A physical therapist is a licensed professional with a doctorate of physical therapy, and they can work at hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab centers, fitness centers, and even carry out home visits.

Physical Therapy Treatments

Just like physical rehabilitation, physical therapy is used to treat patients who have experienced physical injury or trauma or are recovering from illness and disability. Physical therapy can be used to treat conditions such as:

  • Sports-related injuries
  • Neurological conditions, such as stroke, Parkinson’s, or traumatic brain injury
  • Hand conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Concussion
  • Cystic fibrosis

And much more…

Sports-related injuries

Common treatments can involve exercises, stretching, massage, hot and cold treatments, and even physical education. PTs will often give the patients a detailed and customized exercise plan based on their clinical diagnosis, long and short-term goals, and personal capabilities. Physical therapy specializations include:

  • Geriatric physical therapy
  • Neurological physical therapy
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Vestibular therapy
  • Orthopedic physical therapy
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation

Differences Between Physical Rehab vs Physical Therapy

To summarize, the notable differences between physical therapy and physical rehabilitation have to do with what both professions cover. Physical rehabilitation is far broader in scope, encompassing the entire process that a person goes through to restore physical functioning after an injury, disability, or disorder.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, is simply one branch of treatment that falls under the scope of physical rehabilitation. It is just one part of the wider process of restoring a patient’s physical functioning.

If you or someone you know is in need of physical rehab or physical therapy in Atlanta, GA, get in touch with us. Our team at KellieMiddletonMD specializes in treating sports-related injuries and offers rehabilitation services. For more information send us an email or call us at 770-509-4030.