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Can Physical Therapy Be Done Virtually?

In the dynamic realm of healthcare, a new player is revolutionizing the way we do physical therapy: virtual physical therapy


In this deep dive, we're exploring the ins and outs of virtual physical therapy (also sometimes called telephysical therapy or digital pt), how it unfolds in the real world, and the tech tools that make it all happen.



Digital physical therapy gives more people access to pt services

We'll also take a look at the latest research findings and dig into a unique perspective on this technology that goes beyond just convenience – we're talking about expanding access to healthcare for millions of people!


By the end of this article, you'll be in the know about how virtual physical therapy is shaking up the rehab game.



with digital PT your physical therapist is easily accessible


The Rise Of Virtual Physical Therapy


Picture this: you're at home, miles away from the nearest clinic, yet your physical therapist is right there with you. That's the magic of virtual physical therapy, breaking down geographical barriers and making PT accessible to anyone with an internet connection.


So, what does a virtual physical therapy session look like?


1. Getting Started with a Digital Check-In:

  • The virtual therapy journey generally kicks off with a friendly chat about your medical history and what's been bothering you.

  • Don't worry; you won't miss the hands-on touch – therapists use video calls to guide you through self-assessment tasks, making sure they understand your condition inside out.

  • Some companies also use motion tracking sensors or other types of sensors to get a real-time picture of things like your current range of motion and how you are able to perform certain types of movements.


digital PTs can assess range of motion using sensors


2. Exercise Time – Live and In Your Living Room:

  • Forget about flipping through pamphlets of exercises. Virtual therapy brings live demos right to your screen.

  • Using virtual whiteboards and interactive tools, your therapist illustrates exercises tailored just for you – no cookie-cutter routines here.

  • Many companies use highly developed AI algorithms to create these personalized exercise programs. They will review your abilities and align them to personal health goals you might have. This makes the work you do both meaningful and measurable.



digital physical therapy helps personalize your rehabilitation program


3. Real-time Chit-Chat and Form Checks:

  • During exercises, it's not just you against the video. Therapists offer real-time feedback and keep the conversation flowing.

  • Got questions or concerns? The digital door is wide open for you to voice them, creating a therapy space that's interactive and collaborative.

  • Those sensors aren't just for fun - they provide real time feedback on your actions so that the therapist can see what your form is like and what might need to be corrected.


progress tracking is an important part of digital pt

4. Tracking Your Progress – From Afar:

  • No need for in-person check-ins; virtual therapy lets therapists monitor your progress remotely.

  • You might be asked to record measurements or do a quick self-assessment between sessions, giving your therapist a full picture of your journey.

  • Progress tracking is an important part of the journey. To maintain motivation it is very helpful to see just how far you have come - even if it is baby steps - every bit of progress counts!

  • Some companies will use assessment tools like the Oswestry Disability Index which is the gold standard in measuring things like back pain.



you can use your own phone or laptop for digital PT sessions


What Technological Tools Are Required For Virtual Physical Therapy Sessions?


  1. Video:

  • A basic camera attached to your phone, laptop, or tablet is usually all most companies will need.

  • Platforms like Zoom or Teams are rarely used but they can be helpful for video calls.

  • Need to share screens or shoot over a document? These platforms have you covered.

  • Many companies will have their own secure telehealth software that ensures the highest levels of privacy and security of your sessions.

  • Your fitness tracker or smartwatch isn't just for counting steps. It dishes out real-time data on your activity and vital signs, turning it into a superhero sidekick for your therapy journey.

  • Some digital physical therapy companies will send you special wearable sensors as part of their program. These can help them see things like range of motion and muscle activation.

  • Dedicated apps for virtual physical therapy turn exercises into a fun challenge.

  • With extensive exercise libraries, progress tracking, and a touch of gamification, physical therapy becomes engaging and, dare we say, a bit addictive.

  • International guidelines highlight the importance of education for back pain rehabilitation so make sure your digital PT company has plenty of resources for you to read or watch.

  • We're not talking sci-fi here. VR tech is stepping into the therapy game, providing an immersive environment for exercises.

  • Perfect for those with chronic pain or mobility issues, VR therapy is turning rehab into a whole new experience.

  • Integrating with DHR/EHR systems, virtual therapy ensures your personal information, treatment plans, and progress reports stay secure and easily accessible.

  • You can also ask your digital PT company how they use your data and how much access you have to your own information.



researchers found that virtual physical therapy was effective and well tolerated


What Does The Science Say? Can Physical Therapy Be Done Virtually?


The proof is in the pudding – or in this case, the research. A recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare (2023) threw virtual physical therapy into the spotlight.


Across 15 randomized controlled trials, digital PT held its own against in-person therapy, delivering on functional improvements, pain reduction, and patient satisfaction. The researchers explored the question "can physical therapy be done virtually?" They concluded that virtual physical therapy had "high rates of acceptability and adherence with few safety concerns".



research has found that virtual reality physical therapy is effective and safe


And there's more good news! A study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (2022) found that virtual therapy isn't just a one-time wonder. The study examined the 'feasibility of self-administered VR exercises at home'.


The authors of the study found very positive results with patients experiencing lasting improvements and, surprise, surprise, they stuck with their exercise routines more than those in traditional in-person sessions. The researchers concluded that 'VR physical exercises at home is feasible and safe with good acceptance'.



LivaFortis explores how digital physical therapy is expanding access to care for millions of people

Beyond Convenience – How Digital PT is Helping With Healthcare Equity And Access


Sure, virtual therapy is convenient – no commute, no clinic hours to abide by. But its real superpower lies in empowerment. Imagine being an active participant in your recovery, understanding the ins and outs of your exercises, and feeling a sense of control over your health journey. That's the game-changer that digital physical therapy brings to the table.


Another important aspect is cost. For many individuals physical therapy may simply not be a benefit that is included in their health insurance plan, there may be high co-pays or deductibles to meet, or they may not have health insurance coverage at all.



companies like LivaFortis are trying to address health care inequities for physical therapy services

Companies Making Digital PT More Affordable


These challenges put physical therapy out of reach for many. While some of the high-tech VR options might be expensive and others require your employer to offer the benefits, there are emerging companies, like LivaFortis, that are trying to address these inequalities and make their PT programs directly available to consumers.


In a world where your rehabilitation program can seamlessly blend into your daily life, empowerment becomes more than a buzzword – it's the driving force behind consistent rehabilitation efforts and, ultimately, better outcomes.



sometimes digital PT can have technology snags


Challenges and Considerations Of Virtual Physical Therapy Sessions


Of course, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. Virtual therapy has its challenges, like dodgy internet connections and the lack of hands-on guidance. Therapists making the virtual leap need to finesse their communication skills and wield technology like a pro to bridge the physical gap.


Likewise, clients need to understand the limitations of the technology, and have some level of comfort with the tools needed to have a successful session.



digital physical therapy makes healthcare more accessible


Conclusion


Virtual physical therapy isn't just a trend; it's a revolution in healthcare delivery. Armed with advanced technology, secure platforms, and a patient-first approach, it's reshaping how we approach rehabilitation.


So, as we navigate this brave new world, let's not just embrace but actively explore the potential of virtual physical therapy. It's not just about making healthcare accessible; it's about making it personal, empowering, and truly transformative for everyone on their road to recovery.

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