Types of Therapists for Chronic Pain Management

Individuals suffering with chronic pain each have an individual path to managing their daily challenges. Over time, this path develops to meet present needs and, at some point, will often include working with the physical body to increase ease of mobility.

For this, there are two types of specialists patients can turn to: occupational therapists and physical therapists.

While both professionals go through extensive training and board certification, the differences between the two professions are pronounced in how they view and treat an individual’s pain.

Depending on your needs, working with a physical or occupational therapist may be helpful to regaining your quality of life. Learn more about the difference between the two professions, and what they provide to the pain management field, below.

Differences between PT and OT

Contrary to popular belief, occupational therapists and physical therapists are exceptionally different in the way they work with patients, formulate treatment plans, and help individuals recover from injuries.

Get Back Your Normal Life Again

As pain specialists, we can guarantee that we are more than qualified in alleviating your pain and treating your condition.

As a general rule, American physical therapy tends to work better for acute pain resulting from injuries whereas American occupational therapy tends to work better for those living with chronic conditions.

However, the origin of pain is not the single deciding factor you should take into account when choosing which modality is best for you. Read below for more.

Physical Therapy is Physical

A physical therapist mainly works with the physical form alone. This includes teaching patients different kinds of exercises that help strengthen muscles, increase range of motion, and prevent future re-injury. For individuals suffering from back problems and particularly irritable spines, this type of physical training can be transformative for their overall well being and physical resilience.

Physical Therapy Treatment Duration

Generally, a single course of physical therapy can run anywhere from several weeks to several months. This large variation is due to physical therapy being goal orientated in approach. For those who are more severely injured, it may take longer to reach these rehabilitative goals and thus require a longer course of treatment.

Occupational Therapy is Holistic

Occupational therapy takes a full-person approach to goal setting and healing. As such, an occupational therapist will look at the many ways pain can affect the life of an individual, including its impact on motor skills, ability to perform daily living activities, and the individual’s mental health.

For some whose chronic pain negatively impacts their ability to function, occupational therapy can serve to create unique solutions to everyday challenges at home and work. While this is different for every person, it can include learning new ways to getting up from a couch, a less painful way to tie shoelaces, or engaging with external resources and support groups where people can validate and normalize the realities caused by their pain.

Occupational Therapy Treatment Duration

Similar to physical therapy, the duration of treatment is dependent on the severity of your condition and the goals set in place by you and your health care team.

Alternate Treatment Options for Chronic Pain

Over the course of your pain management journey, there might come a time where you begin to try alternate pain management systems to reduce your symptoms. This often helps individuals who are looking to lower their medication intake due to the possibility or experience of side effects.


An ancient component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is thought to work by stimulating specific energy points on the body to bring your system back into alignment. This energetic alignment helps to improve your physical functioning in many ways, pain reduction being one of the main components.

Physical activity

For some, participating in specific kinds of physical activity can greatly reduce pain. This is especially true for individuals that might suffer from pain related to a sedentary work life or unmanaged poor posture.

If you already are physically active, then there might be relief in re-evaluating your work-out routines to identify any possible triggers within your current system.


While occupational therapy and physical therapy work largely on the body’s response to pain, psychotherapy can help work on the mind’s response to pain. These treatments may come in the form of learning cognitive techniques to help accept your current situation, manage upsetting reactions from others, and even help rule out underlying mental conditions such as Depression, which can cause or make pain worse.

Arizona Pain Management

OT and PT are both powerful pain management options for individuals with chronic pain and physical limitations. If your present pain management system is not working or if you would like to explore your other options, these safe and effective modalities might be for you.

The Arizona Pain and Spine Institute boasts a full team of seasoned professionals who specialize in minimally invasive and clinically proven modalities to help manage both long and short-term pain. We make a point to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies to help reduce pain and increase quality of life.

Contact us at (480) 986-7246 for more information on the service we provide, find which doctor is right for you, and get on the path to discussing your next treatment options.