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Physical Rehabilitation vs Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?

physical rehabilitation

Each year, more than 2.2 million individuals succumb to unsafe working conditions. Millions of others face life-changing injuries. Fortunately, physical rehabilitation helps a big deal to restore one’s abilities.

An illness or injury can limit your ability to move, lift, bend, push, or throw. Your everyday tasks become impossible.

Fortunately, physical rehabilitation helps to regain and restore your physical function and strength.

The use of physical therapy and physical rehabilitation interchangeably is common. Yet, these two terms have significant distinctions.

What exactly is the difference between physical rehabilitation and physical therapy? If you’re looking to learn the difference, continue reading!

What Is Physical Rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation refers to the process of restoring the original condition of something. Physical rehabilitation restores and enhances the ability of people with physical impairments. Most of these impairments are injuries that affect joints, bones, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments, and nerves.

The goal of this type of treatment is to improve patients’ independence. A successful rehabilitation enables you to continue with your regular life.

Rehabilitation has a broader scope. It incorporates re-learning skills. The treatment can also involve learning alternative ways of performing tasks or moving.

One of the rehabilitation treatments involves helping individuals regain their physical strength. Patients who finish the sessions have an improved quality of life. They learn to do several functions regardless of an injury’s severity.

What Does Physical Rehabilitation Entail?

The process of physical rehabilitation is gradual. The first step involves acute care, which aims at stabilizing your condition. Serious injuries such as trauma, brain injury, and stroke need acute care.

But when treating a sprained ankle or fracture, a physician’s visit should be the first stop. You need to see a therapist as soon as possible. The response time has significant impacts on the effectiveness of physician care.

The second step is inpatient rehabilitation. It helps patients to regain independence and function. When in a physical rehabilitation facility, patients can get adequate therapy hours.

A professional rehabilitation physical therapist individualizes treatment to meet clients’ diverse needs. Walking with your therapist will allow you to bounce back within no time. That’s why inpatient rehabilitation is essential.

The last phase is outpatient rehabilitation. It focuses on maintenance and improvement of function. You should continue your therapy sessions in an outpatient facility after inpatient therapy. Outpatient rehab provides treatments that a patient can engage in daily or weekly.

These treatment approaches can include joining a support group or a fitness class. Besides physical recovery, you will experience overall life wellness.

What Is Physical Therapy?

Simply put, physical therapy is a branch of physical rehabilitation. Government agencies such as the NIH use physical therapy to refer to all aspects of rehabilitation. But the stack differences are apparent.

Physical therapy corrects impairments and dysfunctions from a patient’s injuries. This treatment improves the functional ability and movement of a patient.

Physical therapy involves several methods of manual treatment.  These approaches improve the flexibility and alignment of patients’ soft tissues and bones.

It incorporates therapeutic exercises, gait training, balance training, functional mobility, and stretching. The treatment seeks to increase a patient’s function and reduce pain.

If you have a spine injury, stroke, joint conditions, and pain, consider physical therapy. For spine injury, physical therapy shortens your recovery period. It further limits the damage to your back and neck injury.

Who Is a Physical Therapist?

A physical therapist treats the human musculoskeletal system. The professional has a specialized set of skills and competencies. Most of these physicians work in a healthcare setting.

Physical therapists can also specialize in cardiac rehabilitation, wound care, pediatrics, and orthopedics. You need to specify the help you want. Comprehensive consultation can guide you to the right therapist.

Chiropractors stand out as the ideal physical therapists for musculoskeletal issues.

You can get a personalized experience in a rehab center or a private setting. Ensure that you work with a professional to get high-quality care.

Physical therapists in New York pay $294 for licensure. You ought to work with accredited facilities for optimal results. Qualified therapists can assess and treat patients’ functional limitations and impairments.

Your physical therapist will recommend assistive and medical devices for patients. These devices include wheelchairs, walkers, standers, canes, and shower chairs. The purpose of these assistive devices is to improve patients’ functioning and mobility.

Physical therapists also play the role of educationists. They inform patients about issues relating to their conditions and preventive measures. A therapist can also guide you on appropriate recreational activities.

If you’re wondering how to deal with neck pain when lifting weights, your physical therapist can guide you. A physical therapist directs patients on appropriate home exercise programs. Following the plan can guarantee you sustainable results within no time.

You can get physical therapy services in multiple settings. Some of these places include rehabs, hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. In inpatient settings, there is a therapy gym aimed at improving the physical ability of patients.

Other Types of Physical Rehabilitation

Physical therapy is one of the types of physical rehabilitation. Occupational, recreational, and speech therapy are other main types of rehabilitation. Each of these programs helps a patient to reach full recovery.

Rehabilitation therapy has different goals depending on a patient’s needs. Various rehabilitation programs utilize diverse techniques. These treatment strategies can range from neurological re-education to therapeutic exercises.

Therapeutic exercises are some of the standard techniques in physical rehabilitation. Your physical therapist might recommend other approaches to make the treatment more effective.

Occupational Therapy

Car accidents are a major cause of physical disabilities. Traffic fatalities increased by 6% between 2015 and 2016. The rate of car crashes in the United States has continued to rise.

If you are part of the statistics, occupational therapy can help you live a healthy life. Occupational therapy treatments give patients specialized help. This approach allows them to take part in the usual activities.

An occupational therapist will assist you by guiding you on changes that allow you to complete everyday tasks. An accident can cause severe impairments, and occupational therapy approaches can restore your functioning.

Work accidents can impede cognitive functions. They can also cause traumatic brain injury. An occupational therapist can prove resourceful in such instances.

If you have a spinal cord injury, an occupational therapy guides on behaviors and movements that reduce the intensity of injuries. The main goal of an occupational therapist is to restore your independence. A combination of occupational and physical therapy will have you back on your feet within a short time.

Besides, you will know how to relieve issues such as chronic back pain at work. The approaches will allow you to regain your productivity.

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy is under the umbrella of physical rehabilitation therapy. Therapeutic recreation helps patients to improve their social, cognitive, emotional, and physical functioning. This approach allows you to live a satisfying life regardless of the extent of an injury.

Through recreational therapy, you will experience overall wellness. Besides, it will be easier to integrate into the community after weeks or months of stay in a rehabilitation center. A therapist will decide on the ideal recreational activity based on your interests.

With constant engagement in a recreational activity, you’ll regain your functional ability. What’s more, you will get enough endurance that will allow you to resume your normal life. The available recreational activities will give you inexhaustible choices.

Regardless of the type and extent of physical injury, recreational therapy can help. Work with your therapist for guidance on what is relevant to your condition.

Benefits of Physical Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

If you got into a car or workplace accident, physical therapy ought to be a priority. Regardless of how minor the accident was, seeking a physical therapist is in your best interest. Untreated injuries can have long-term adverse impacts.

Physical therapists have a median annual wage of $87,930. The compensation is consistent with the significant role that the professionals play. These physical rehabilitation experts will restore the vitality you had before the accident.

You Won’t Need Surgery

With physical therapy, you don’t have to go for surgery. A therapist will help with pain relief and general healing.

In a case where surgery is inevitable, physical therapy makes the process more manageable and successful. Your recovery process will be faster. Besides, you will incur fewer costs on healthcare.

Further Injury Prevention

Accidents can impede your balance. Physical therapy makes you less prone to injuries. Your balance increases and you are careful about what causes you more pain.

A therapist will guide you on how to treat muscle pain after a car accident. With the right information, you don’t have to visit your physical rehab therapist as often. You will know the necessary steps toward injury management and prevention.

Improved Mobility

Physical therapy increases mobility. An accident can reduce your ability to move, walk, or stand. You might also need to take a break from leisure activities such as swimming and biking. A physical therapist can give you exercises that help you to strengthen and stretch your muscles.

You can also achieve mobility through assistive devices such as a cane or crutches. Your rehabilitation therapist knows the tools that will improve your ability. The customized plan enables you to resume your normal activities a bit faster.


The beauty of physical therapy treatment is that it doesn’t involve taking drugs. This complementary treatment approach is sustainable. It further has significant benefits on the wellbeing of a patient.

When you finish your physical rehabilitation programs, your body will adopt a positive lifestyle. You might find fulfillment in regular exercise. In the end, you will lead a healthy life and avert most of the possible lifestyle conditions.

Choosing a Physical Therapist

If you have decided to go for physical rehabilitation, ensure that you select a facility from the point of knowledge. Your physical therapist should be competent enough to take you through sessions. A licensed physical therapist guarantees you optimal and high-quality care.

You should research thoroughly before settling for a rehabilitation center. Clinics have different specializations, and knowing the types of treatments available is crucial. You can get vital information from online reviews or referrals.

When you search for an injury doctor in New York, you’ll get enough options. Several therapists are specializing in workplace and car accident victims. Make an informed decision for sustainable results.

A physical therapist should have commendable relational skills. You can tell a great therapist from your first interaction. A working rapport allows you to communicate your needs to your therapist openly.

You have a significant role to play in your recovery. A stable relationship with your therapist will help in your recovery journey. Have a conversation with a potential therapist and narrow down to a professional who acts from the point of empathy.

You ought to know the therapist you’ll be seeing. Having a consistent physical therapist for all your visits is crucial. A rehabilitation PT who knows your case from the start will give you better results at the end of the sessions.

A physical therapist should roll out a plan to help you in-home recovery. You can get detailed instructions in the form of videos or handouts demonstrating moves. The PT ought to give you guidance for practical rehabilitation exercises.

Physical Therapy Is One of the Main Facets of Physical Rehabilitation

Physical Therapist who takes workers compensation

Physical Therapy Clinic in Oceanside, NY

Physical therapy is a kind of physical rehabilitation. The goal of these treatments is the improvement of the quality of life of a patient. If you had a car or workplace-related accident, this complementary treatment is worth trying.

Rehabilitation will improve your physical, cognitive, and mental wellbeing. It will help you deal with pain and injuries related to accidents. You can have impactful physical therapy sessions in any physical rehabilitation center, hospital, or at home.

The positive effects will have lasting benefits. You need to embrace physical exercises as part of your daily routine for a more fulfilling life.

What to Expect from Physical Rehabilitation After Work-Related Slip and Falls and Auto Accident Injuries

One of the biggest questions for those injured at work or in a car accident is what they should expect from their physical rehabilitation appointments. The appointments will vary based on your injuries, treatments, and overall health, but there are a few common elements.

The Initial Session

 The very first rehabilitation session will always include an assessment of some sort. This will include the therapist or doctor asking you questions and having you try a range of movements while they carefully observe you. The therapist will pay attention to muscle strength, coordination, balance, mobility, posture, and range of motion.

This assessment helps the doctor figure out a treatment plan to get you back to normal — or as close to it as they can. This is also an essential part of the treatment from a documentation standpoint, as the doctor’s assessment can support your workers’ compensation claim.

Potential Treatment

 Based on the information your doctor or therapist gathers during the assessment and their experience, they will develop a treatment plan customized to your needs. It will typically include a few different types of treatments, such as:

  • Manual Therapy
  • Light Exercise or Stretches
  • Ice and Heat
  • Laser Therapy
  • Electrical Stimulation

Expect the therapist to give you instructions on some of these treatments, such as stretches, light exercise, and ice and heat, to follow at home.

Potential Specialties

There are also various specialties in physical therapy, and while you are unlikely to see a sports physical therapist for your slip and fall or car accident at work, you may see one specializing in orthopedic, neurological, cardiac, or aquatic physical therapy.

How Many Sessions Will I Need?”

As with most other factors regarding physical therapy, how many sessions you will need will depend on your condition. It may also depend on what the workers’ compensation policy is willing to cover. Your therapists’ documentation and suggestions will likely play a key role in how much therapy will be covered. Workers’ compensation insurance will want to pay for as little as possible yet to fulfill its obligations.

How Rehab Can Help Following a Work-Related Injury

Whether you need physical therapy for a car accident or a slip and fall at work, there are several ways that this treatment can help you, each of which is important. Most of the benefits are medical, but there are also some ways that the rehab will support your claim.

Providing Documentation

From a legal standpoint, the most crucial way that rehab can help your claim is by providing documentation. That initial assessment that the physical therapist completes at your first session will show the severity of your injuries. Future documentation regarding your recovery process can also show that your injuries are severe or that they have a more considerable impact on your life, indicating a need for greater compensation.

That compensation and documentation factor is incredibly essential considering that, on average, a slip and fall results in medical bills of $33,000 to $48,000.

Pain Reduction

No matter the cause of your injury, there is a good chance that you are experiencing pain, especially when you make certain movements. Physical therapy can help with pain reduction by getting your muscles to regain their natural movement.

Dealing with less pain will increase your quality of life and reduce your need for painkillers. That last point should not be overlooked, as many painkillers have side effects and can be addictive.

Find Unknown Injuries

Because rehabilitation tends to be fairly thorough, especially during the initial assessment, it may even help you find injuries that you did not know existed. This helps in multiple ways, as you cannot treat an injury unless you know it is there. Without treatment, the injury could get worse or show up at unexpected times, hurting your quality of life.

It also helps from the compensation standpoint. Workers’ compensation does not have a crystal ball, so it can only compensate you for injuries and the treatment for them that it knows about. What if you didn’t notice the injury until the workers’ comp case is already done, despite it having been from the workplace accident? You, your doctors, and your lawyers would have a hard time proving a connection, and you would be unlikely to be compensated.

By catching these hidden injuries right away, this does not become a concern.

Can Help at Any Stage of Recovery

 Another great thing about rehab following workplace injuries is that it can be helpful at any stage of your recovery process. It is the most effective in the beginning, as you are able to start healing right away. That said, it is still helpful later on. For example, if you experience a sudden flare of pain or stiffness related to the injury in a few months or even years, rehabilitation should help provide relief.

Other Things to Know about Physical Rehabilitation After a Work-Related Injury

 Finding a Specialist

Depending on the state you live in, you may get to choose your physical therapist or your employer may be allowed to select them. It is also possible that your employer will have a list of approved therapists for you to choose from. If you get to choose, you can ask your primary doctor for suggestions or a referral.

Just make sure that your chosen physical therapist has experience helping patients with injuries similar to yours and dealing with workers’ compensation. Given that those who worked for private companies in 2018 experienced 2.8 million illnesses or injuries that were non-fatal, there is sufficient demand for workers’ comp doctors, so you should be able to find one.

Who Pays?

Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should pay for your physical rehabilitation. Because insurance companies are notorious for not wanting to spend money, you may have to fight for coverage in the case of injuries that require longer-term treatments. However, an experienced therapist will have no problem giving you the documentation to help you get as much coverage as you need.


Working with a physical therapist or any other professional for rehab following a work-related injury requires some element of documentation for your workers’ compensation claim. Substantial documentation is essential for proving the extent of your injuries, so you can be properly reimbursed for your workplace or auto injury. If you work with a doctor who regularly deals with workers’ comp, they will likely already know what documentation they are responsible for.

Do you need to find the right injury doctor? Call us today at 1-800-897-8440 for a wide range of top medical professionals and services.


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