Are the two terms below interchangeable when addressing injuries?

  • Rehabilitation is care that can help you get back, keep, or improve abilities that you need for daily life. These abilities may be physical, mental, and/or cognitive (thinking and learning). You may have lost them because of a disease or injury, or as a side effect from a medical treatment. Rehabilitation can improve your daily life and functioning.
  • Physical therapy is a non-invasive discipline that helps individuals develop, maintain and restore maximum body movement and physical function. Physical therapy can help clients recover from an injury, relieve pain, prevent future injury or deal with a chronic condition. It can be applied at any age or stage of life. The ultimate goal of physical therapy is to improve health and quality of life.

May I use rehabilitation and physical therapy interchangeably, as synonyms? Repeating "physical therapy" multiple times in a sentence decreases readability. The context is physical rehabilitation after a traumatic injury. Patients rehabilitative care is described by their physical therapy use (this includes relatively similar terms like occupational therapy and exercise therapy).

  • "rehabilitation" has many meanings, including criminal, drug, etc. Apr 5, 2021 at 16:43
  • Good point. Or what good practice for such cases. Some kind of statement? I.e. rehabilitation is used as a synonym of physical therapy in this work to avoid repeating the latter?
    – qw45ty
    Apr 5, 2021 at 16:47
  • Why not use the commonly used abbreviation “PT”? (Example)
    – Laurel
    Apr 5, 2021 at 16:53
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    We haven't seen any of your sentences, so...maybe think about using relative clauses or other parenthetical devices in which you can use pronouns to refer to the antecedent? Apr 5, 2021 at 17:32
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    If the context makes it clear that you're talking about physical injuries, it will often be obvious that the two terms are equivalent. But rehabilitation can be used more generally.
    – Barmar
    Apr 5, 2021 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


"Rehabilitation" is more general than "physical therapy". Also, rehabilitation is the goal, while physical therapy is the action taken to get that goal. Within a sentence, you can use just "therapy" after the first mention, or just "PT". In a longer passage, you'll have to consider whether it's still clear that "therapy" or "PT" refer to "physical therapy". If you put "PT" in parentheses, this makes it more clear to the reader that they should remember that "PT" means "physical therapy". For instance, "I have physical therapy (PT) tomorrow, and I'm scheduled to continue PT for several weeks".

  • All the definitions of "rehabilitation" in my dictionary start with "the action of ...", so it refers to the process, not the goal.
    – Barmar
    Apr 5, 2021 at 18:25
  • @Barmar merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rehabilitation gives "the action, process, or result of rehabilitating or of being rehabilitated" Apr 5, 2021 at 18:41

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