Interpreting for Physical and Occupational Therapy Sessions

Some of the more common appointments healthcare interpreters can encounter are physical therapy (PT) and, to a lesser extent, occupational therapy (OT). These two kinds of therapies often go hand in hand (pun intended!) and can take place in pediatric, adult, and geriatric medicine, on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Both of these therapies might be helpful for a wide range of conditions as well as for patients recovering from a surgery, trauma, or illness. 


Considering the variety of settings and conditions associated with physical and occupational therapy, interpreters assisting during such appointments can expect to encounter, among other things, terminology related to the musculoskeletal system, childhood development and learning, descriptions of pain, commands, exercise equipment, and therapeutic tools and devices.


To help interpreters prepare for interpreting during physical and occupational therapy appointments, Boostlingo has put together some resources: from background knowledge to glossaries and videos, so read on to learn more! 


  • Physical and occupational therapies are sometimes confused because of a certain overlap between the two and because these types of services might not be as common in other countries. So, start by reading this helpful article explaining the similarities and differences between physical and occupational therapy, as well as examples of situations in which both of these therapies might be used. 
  • Get started on your glossary with these handy mini-glossaries for PT and OT
  • Next, watch this Ted Talk which describes how occupational therapy can be used to help recover from a traumatic brain injury using a real-life story of a patient’s recovery. This story is both inspiring and informative, and you can turn on subtitles to help you with translating terminology used in the video – and to make it easier to add it to your glossary! 
  • Read this blog post by Liz Essary, a Spanish interpreter, with hints and tips on preparing for and interpreting during physical therapy sessions. 
  • Watch these video demos of physical and occupational therapy sessions, As you are watching, note down the words and phrases you think might pose a challenge for interpreting. You can also use these videos to practice your consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills. 




Professional medical interpreters are expected to possess a breadth of healthcare background knowledge and be proficient in medical terminology. In addition, interpretes engage in continuous professional development to make sure they are staying up-to-date on the latest developments in their field. Preparation for interpreting in common areas of healthcare is part of each interpreter’s continuous professional development, and after reading this article, you are that much more prepared to interpret during occupational and physical therapy sessions!