If you have ever had any form of physical injury or disability you may have been fortunate enough to encounter a skilled physical therapist. These are the well trained, qualified practitioners who work with the human body to help people regain, or even gain, a range of moment and function. While there are many similarities and overlaps between what a physical and an occupational therapist will do, there are also some quite important differences. However, both will have an in-depth understanding on kinesiology.

What Does It All Mean?

While the terms may be new, the concepts are very old. Kinesiology is just looking at how the muscles work to move the body, and while we have developed new techniques and have managed to amass a huge amount of knowledge through medical advancement and inventions like imagining scanners.

How does this tie in with occupational or physical therapy? Both of these are about helping you move your body easier, with occupational therapy (OT) focused on helping you to improve your ability to perform the everyday activities required to allow you to live your life, while physical therapy (PT) focuses on improving a particular moment. OT might help someone who has developed arthritis to find ways to be able to continue to cook in their own kitchen, while PT might be able to help someone who was in a car accident to walk again (or develop the strength and skills to use a wheelchair).

So, you can see how a knowledge of how muscles work and the movement of the human body is going to be an essential part of helping people regain their movement or learn new physical skills that will enable them to live a more independent life.

How Occupational Therapy Can Benefit You

An Occupational Therapist is a licensed qualified, and registered practitioner who has a qualification from an approved tertiary education facility, intensive fieldwork training and extensive hand on practical training. Their studies will include in-depth theorical and practical knowledge of:

  • Functional anatomy
  • Neurobiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Foundations of occupational therapy
  • Theoretical concepts and practice areas
  • Occupation through the life span
  • Therapeutic communication skills

The occupational approach doesn’t simply look at your injury and try to fix it, they will look at you as a whole person, including your work and fun activities, then create a program of recovery that will increase your ability to complete the activities you enjoy while undergoing therapy.

Taking an example of a child who is struggling with writing, an occupational therapist may see that the issue is the child does not have enough hand strength in what is supposed to be their dominate hand to grip the pen well enough to manipulate it into writing letters on paper. They may come up with some strengthening exercises that focus on developing that particular grip ability, or they may need to look further into why there is a poor grip in the first place.

What Is Kinesiology?

Although it is an effective piece of knowledge, it is also an independent treatment that can be used either in conjunction with other therapies or as an independent treatment that takes a holistic approach to healing.

To establish where issues are in your body your practitioner or therapist may have you to lie down and ask you to try to lift your arm or leg while they put light pressure against the limb. They are testing to see not just what your level of strength is, but also if you push evenly, if there is a consistent and continuous strength etc. This forms a base line for the therapist to work with you and ensure that you are making steady progress.

If you see a physiotherapist for sports therapist for various strains or injury recovery treatment, you may find that they use a kinesiology strapping tape on you (see here). This is a stretchy tape that they use to support the muscles or tendons and allow them to build strength, as opposed to a more traditional stiff tape which is used to help immobilize a joint or tendon to aid recovery when stability is a concern. You will often see athletes with tap on ankles, thighs or wrists, and this is what they are doing, by using this tape carefully positioned and placed by someone with extreme knowledge of muscular anatomy they are reducing their risk for injury.

What About Applied Kinesiology?

This is something to be a little wary of it you are booking an appointment with someone. This is a very different type of thing than Kinesiology. Although AK does use ‘muscle testing’, it is more interested in how your body reacts to a variety of situations and substances. This is often something that would be used in conjunction with a naturopath, with testing that will generally be looking at muscle weakness when you are near certain substances such as wheat or tomatoes, and a variety of common minerals.

However, it is an interesting and fun game you can try it home: ask your friend to close their eyes and hold out their hands. Using their dominate (writing) hand they need to put their thumb and first finger together to firm a circle. In the other hand you are going to put various objects or substances (in glass containers usually). As them to hold their thumb and finger together firmly, but not too forcefully. Start with nothing in their other hand and gently try to separate their finger and thumb. Now put something in their other hand (a small jar of flour, a bag of frozen peas, a tin of tomatoes, a box of herbs) and now try to separate their finger and thumb. As you go through various substances you will find that sometimes it is very, very, easy to separate them, and sometimes you can’t. The theory is that when it is easy this is a substance that causes some problem for the person, perhaps an allergy, or maybe just lowers their energy level (which you would assume would be the case if you were testing sleeping tablets for example).

Obviously, Kinesiology as a physical therapy is very different to the muscle testing of applied kinesiology.

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