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Physical Rehab vs Physical Therapy: What are the Differences

Physical Rehab vs Physical Therapy: What are the Differences


Understanding the distinctions between physical rehab and physical therapy is crucial for anyone seeking to improve their physical well-being, recover from an injury, or manage a chronic condition with the help of physical therapists. While these terms are often used interchangeably in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, they refer to different approaches and methodologies in patient care.

Physical Rehab vs Physical Therapy

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a specialized form of treatment that uses various techniques, exercises, and manual therapies to help patients regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion in affected areas. It is typically prescribed for individuals who have experienced musculoskeletal injuries, orthopedic surgeries, or neurological conditions.

The primary goal of physical therapy is to reduce pain and inflammation, increase joint mobility, and improve overall function. Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that address their specific needs and goals. Treatment may involve exercises, stretches, manual therapies, electrical stimulation, heat or cold therapy, and other techniques.

What Happens During Physical Therapy Session?

Physical therapy sessions typically involve exercises, manual therapy, and the use of modalities like heat, cold, and electrical stimulation to address specific physical issues and medical conditions. Customized treatment plans and exercise programs are developed to meet individual patient needs.

What is Physical Rehab?

Physical rehab, short for physical rehabilitation, is a comprehensive program designed to aid individuals in recovering from serious injuries, surgeries, or medical conditions that have resulted in a loss of function or mobility. Physical rehab focuses on restoring patients’ abilities to perform daily activities and improve their quality of life.

Physical rehab programs are commonly recommended for individuals who have undergone major surgeries such as joint replacements, cardiac procedures, or spinal surgeries to treat a spinal cord injury. They are also beneficial for individuals recovering from chronic pains, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, or prolonged hospital stays so they can get back to their everyday tasks.

Physical rehab typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other healthcare professionals. The program is tailored to each individual’s specific needs and may include a combination of exercises, therapies, assistive devices, and adaptive techniques.

What Happens During Physical Rehab Session?

During a physical rehab session, patients undergo a comprehensive and structured program that focuses on restoring their physical function and improving their overall well-being. The sessions are typically conducted in a rehabilitation facility or clinic under the guidance of healthcare professionals.

The first step in a physical rehab session involves an assessment of the patient’s current condition and functional abilities. This assessment helps determine the individual goals and the specific areas that need to be addressed in the rehabilitation program. From there, a personalized treatment plan is developed which may include a combination of exercises, therapies, and techniques.

Physical rehab sessions often involve a variety of activities such as strength training, cardiovascular exercises, balance and coordination exercises, gait training, mobility exercises, and functional activities. These sessions are usually supervised by physical therapists or other rehabilitation professionals to ensure proper technique progress and recovery from injury.

In addition to exercise, physical rehab sessions may also include manual therapies such as massage, stretching, and joint mobilization to improve flexibility and reduce pain. Modalities like heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation through the use of electrical current, or ultrasound may be used to further facilitate healing and alleviate symptoms.

Is Physical Therapy Included in Physical Rehab?

Is Physical Therapy Included in Physical Rehab?

Yes, physical therapy is often included as part of physical rehab. However, it is important to note that physical rehab goes beyond just physical therapy and incorporates other therapies as well. These additional therapies may include occupational therapy, which focuses on improving a patient’s ability to perform daily activities, or speech therapy, which helps with communication and swallowing difficulties.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in physical rehab. It helps address specific physical issues, improves mobility, and alleviates pain. Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans and guide them through exercises and therapies that promote recovery and restore function.

Other Types of Physical Rehabilitation

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a branch of physical rehabilitation that aims to enhance the daily living and work skills of individuals who face physical, developmental, or emotional challenges. It plays a crucial role in helping patients regain independence and improve their quality of life.

The primary goal of occupational therapy is to assist individuals in achieving maximum functionality and independence in their daily activities. This includes tasks such as dressing, grooming, eating, and completing household chores. Occupational therapists work with patients to develop strategies and techniques that enable them to perform these activities more efficiently and with less pain or discomfort.

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy is a unique approach to physical rehabilitation that focuses on using leisure activities to enhance the overall well-being of individuals. This form of therapy recognizes the importance of incorporating enjoyable and meaningful activities into rehab programs to promote physical, cognitive, emotional, and social healing.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and language therapy is a crucial component of physical rehab that addresses various challenges in communication. This specialized form of therapy focuses on treating individuals who experience difficulties with speech, language, voice, and swallowing.

One common area of concern addressed by speech and language therapy is speech disorders. Speech disorders can manifest in different ways, such as articulation issues, fluency problems (e.g., stuttering), or voice disorders. Speech and language therapists assess the individual’s needs and develop customized treatment plans to improve their communication skills.

The Benefits of Undergoing Physical Rehab and Physical Therapy

The Benefits of Undergoing Physical Rehab and Physical Therapy

Undergoing physical rehab and physical therapy can provide numerous benefits for individuals recovering from illness or injury. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Restoring Functionality: Physical rehab and physical therapy aim to restore a patient’s abilities and functions. Through personalized treatment plans, therapists work with patients to improve mobility, strength, flexibility, and balance. This ultimately helps individuals regain their independence and perform daily activities with ease.
  2. Pain Management: Physical therapy techniques such as manual therapy, exercise, and modalities like heat or cold therapy can help alleviate pain. Therapists also teach patients self-management strategies to manage pain effectively.
  3. Preventing Further Injury: Physical rehab focuses on teaching proper body mechanics and techniques to prevent future injuries. This includes education on proper posture, ergonomics, and safe movement patterns to reduce the risk of re-injury or developing new injuries.
  4. Improved Quality of Life: Physical rehab and physical therapy can greatly improve an individual’s quality of life. By addressing physical limitations and improving function, individuals can experience increased confidence, independence, and overall well-being.
  5. Faster Recovery: Physical therapy can help speed up the recovery process by promoting healing, reducing inflammation, and improving circulation. Therapists use various techniques such as therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and specialized equipment to facilitate faster recovery.
  6. Customized Treatment Plans: Physical rehab and physical therapy involve personalized treatment plans tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs. Therapists assess the patient’s condition and goals and then design a comprehensive plan that addresses specific challenges and progressive goals. This ensures that the treatment is focused on the individual’s specific needs and maximizes their potential for recovery.
  7. Emotional Support: Physical rehab and physical therapy provide not only physical support but also emotional support. Therapists work closely with patients, offering encouragement, motivation, and empathy throughout the rehabilitation process. This helps individuals stay positive, motivated, and engaged in their treatment.
  8. Holistic Approach: Physical rehab and physical therapy take a holistic approach to healing, addressing not only the physical aspects but also the emotional, cognitive, and social factors that may impact recovery. Therapists consider the individual’s overall well-being and work towards improving their overall quality of life.

When Do We Need Physical Rehab and Physical Therapy?

Physical rehab and physical therapy are beneficial in a variety of situations where individuals may require assistance in restoring their physical function and improving their overall well-being. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if physical rehab or physical therapy is appropriate for your specific situation. They can assess your needs and create a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your goals and improve your overall well-being.

Revival Physical Therapy in Minneapolis helps active adults and athletes recover from injuries and get back to their workouts and sports without the need for surgery, sacrificing activities, or relying on pain medicine through our different rehabilitation services.

Our individualized treatment plans and care team composed of expert therapists and health care professionals with advanced training in physical medicine, ensure a faster and more effective recovery, allowing our patients to regain their strength, mobility, and confidence in achieving their fitness goals. We will assess your situation and offer you a plan of care that works with your condition and ensures that you receive comprehensive care.


While physical therapy is an integral part of physical rehab, they are not identical. Understanding the differences between these physical therapy services ensures that individuals can seek the appropriate physical therapy treatment to aid in their recovery or manage chronic conditions effectively to help patients recover and get back to their normal daily lives.


What is the meaning of physical rehab?

Physical rehab is a comprehensive approach aimed at restoring a person’s functional abilities and quality of life following illness, injury, or surgery.

What is the role of physical therapy in rehabilitation?

Physical therapy is a key component of rehabilitation, focusing on alleviating pain, restoring function, and improving mobility.

Is rehabilitation a form of therapy?

Rehabilitation encompasses various forms of therapy, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, tailored to meet the individual needs of patients.

A man with curly hair smiling at the camera, arms crossed, wearing a black polo shirt with logos, standing in a gym filled with equipment.

Dr. Benjamin Britton

Revival Physical Therapy and Wellness

"We Help Active Adults And Athletes Get Back To The Workouts And Sports They Enjoy Without Surgery, Stopping Activities They Love, Or Relying On Pain Medicine."
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