While rehabilitation and physical therapy have similar goals, the two modalities focus on two different aspects of the healing process. Rehabilitation is designed to help the patient relearn how to perform certain activities or adapt how an activity is performed if an injury has caused structural change. Physical therapy, on the other hand, helps the body regain its strength and return to a level of fitness in which they can function as they did prior to their injury or illness. Both are valuable resources when it comes to restoring both form and function during the healing process.
Rehabilitation is needed if a person has lost the ability to perform a specific activity or activities due to an illness, such as a stroke, or an injury that has resulted in structural changes to the body. Individuals who have received a traumatic injury or have been recovering from a lengthy illness will need rehabilitation to help them regain their strength so they are up to the rigors of physical therapy. Rehabilitation can include relearning simple motor skills, practicing day-to-day activities (using a fork, spoon, toothbrush, pencil, etc.), and in some cases, learning how to walk Some patients will need additional rehabilitation if they have other concerns that need to be addressed.
Restoring proper function involves training the body to move in the ways it was originally intended. For example, a person who has had a knee or hip replacement may begin walking with an abnormal gait. This can damage other joints as they attempt to compensate for the weakness of the injured area. Restoring proper function includes training the body to move in a balanced manner. It involves strengthening the weakened areas, improving flexibility, and increasing range of motion so that the joint or other body part functions as naturally as possible. As the injured area begins to heal, it reduces the stress placed on other areas.
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