Virtual Physiotherapy: How could that work?
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
When learning about the option to receive physiotherapy services in a virtual format (commonly referred to as "Telehealth" or "Telemedicine"), many people struggle to wrap their mind around how it could possibly work. It is a common misconception that physiotherapists must be physically present to diagnose and treat people with pain and movement dysfunction. However, with a thorough history and movement based examination (performed via video-messaging), a physiotherapist can provide you with expert evaluative-skills combined with the prescription of an individualized, self-treatment plan and the appropriate education necessary to help you reach your goals.
It is true that many physiotherapists provide excellent services and care that require the therapist to be physically present (spinal manipulation, joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, etc.) and often use their hands or other equipment to perform the treatment. However, there are often alternative-techniques that your physio can teach you to perform on yourself that provide similar benefits to the treatments provided by your physio. For example, to replace spinal mobilizations performed by your physio, they may teach you how to use a foam roller to mobilize your thoracic spine by yourself. Ultimately, the goal of a good physiotherapist is to teach their patients to take care of themselves independently.
Now that we understand that physiotherapy can be effective in a virtual format, what are its advantages?
YOU DON'T NEED TO GO ANYWHERE! Our fast-paced lives have been even more complicated by a global pandemic, thrusting many of us into a hyper-virtualized world. The incentives and capabilities to stay home have never been so high.
With all that said, it really is helpful to be able to be treated in the comfort of your own home, office or even hotel room. No need for babysitters, blocking your work schedule or anticipating traffic and battling for parking. For those who are often traveling for work and have difficulty committing to in-clinic appointments, virtual physiotherapy provides better flexibility.
It can also be helpful for your physiotherapist to be able to see the environments that you live and/or work in to help you with your specific problems and goals. Whether it is modifying your home-office setup to help with your neck pain and headaches or helping you lift your baby out of his crib with less back pain, virtual physiotherapy provides opportunities that can be difficult to recreate in the clinic.
Finally, virtual physiotherapy allows clinicians to broaden the reach of their services. This may be particularly helpful for those who live in rural communities who may have limited access to physiotherapy or are seeking services from a specific physiotherapist that practices in a different town. Generally, physiotherapists are able to treat people virtually who are residents of the states in which the therapist is licensed. It is possible that non-physiotherapy services be provided to clients across state-lines, however this will vary case by case.
In conclusion, physiotherapists are generally able to provide their most valuable services in a virtual format and virtual physiotherapy provides unique treatment opportunities in the environments you function in as well as provide flexibility to patients and clients.
What you need for a successful virtual physiotherapy experience:
A physiotherapist that provides virtual services
Computer/Laptop/Tablet/Phone with reliable video (webcam/camera) function and audio (microphones, speakers, headphones) function
Reliable internet connection
Well-lit room with a safe space to move (yoga or exercise mat may be helpful) and/or exercise