In the past few weeks, our whole world has literally changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. If anyone of us were told that someday soon we would all be quarantined to our homes, businesses forced to shut down, and mask-wearing was the new thing… we would all probably laugh at the idea.
But as crazy as it sounds, this is our reality for right now. And businesses in all sectors have pivoted at lightning speed to accommodate.
Physical therapy is no different. If you were in this profession, you would be privy to the hundreds of conversations, group zoom calls, and conferences ALL about how to continue to serve via telehealth or virtually. Many states have mandated that telehealth visits be covered and many private insurance and medicare have jumped to approve this method of healthcare as well.
So while I had previously worked with a few clients virtually who lived far away and were looking for help when there was no one near them or they were unable to find a therapist that they were satisfied with, I am now seeing MOST of my patients in this “new” way.
And while we have come to think of physical therapy as a strictly hands-on service, we actually are able to do quite a lot through a virtual visit. So I’m writing this blog to share WHAT I have been doing virtually and HOW it works.
Though the word “physical” is literally in our professional title, we are able to address physical issues with the body in more than just with our hands. To help a person resolve pain or a physical problem that prevents them from living life as they like, we need to:
LISTEN to the person’s story, their history, what they have noticed about their condition such as what makes it better or worse, how it is affecting their quality of life, and what they hope to get out of therapy.
PLAY DETECTIVE by carefully observing how a person moves, balances, gets up from the ground, chair, or bed, how much they are able to move and how they may be unknowingly compensating for something.
ASSESS the QUANTITY of MOVEMENT in joints and spine… I can even hold a measuring tool up to my monitor and take joint angle measurements!
COUNSEL on behavior changes that are needed such as quantity of sleep, sleep hygiene, bathroom habits (yup, its a pelvic PT thing), water consumption, stress management strategies, sleep postures for comfort (hello pregnant mamas!), breast feeding posture, car posture, constipation management.
Prescribe and modify a home program and self care strategies such as mobilizing our own tight leg muscles or low back or neck with tools we already have at home.
There are definitely times where a physical assessment is greatly needed to be sure I am fully aware of all aspects of a patient’s issues and know exactly what they need. But we can usually get so much done to get someone started or progress until they are able to get that physical assessment. And don’t get me wrong, my hands are DYING to assess and treat my patients!
So when I do a virtual visit, what is it like you wonder?
When we schedule an appointment, my patient receives an email with a link that they will click on while using the device that they would like to use for the visit. This can be their smart phone, tablet, or computer. It is ideal to use a device that can be moved around during the session so that we can see a person laying on the floor doing an exercise or standing up, etc.
When we get logged in, we TALK and are able to hear and see each other. It may be the first visit or a follow up visit.
As we begin with the assessment part of the visit, I may have my patient show me a movement in standing such as balance on one leg, lay on the ground and work on breathing, or sit in a chair that they like to use at home and work on posture or do a seated exercise. I guide my client by demonstrating myself how I am positioning my device and what exercise or assessment position we will be in next. It becomes a fun little dance with where we prop and position our devices and hardly notice it.
With exercises, I virtually coach my clients through their exercises and I usually do it with them. I will look for technique issues and point out things to modify or change an exercise altogether if they have pain with it or we find it to be too difficult or too easy.
Towards the end of the session, we review the main concepts we are working on and discuss how they are progressing. We update their home program and talk about next steps to keep focused on their progress and goals.
And ALL of that is accomplished WITHOUT touch or being in the same room. A physical therapist is a MOVEMENT EXPERT and can easily assess movement through video. We can detect patterns in a person’s description of symptoms to better diagnose the issue.
As a pelvic physical therapist, I have patients who are STILL in pain that impeded their basic daily function, STILL pregnant with issues that may impact their birth, STILL dealing with symptoms that are keeping them up at night with the stress of it or preventing them from living their life on their terms.
So for the time being, I am STILL caring for my fellow women (and sometimes men). We just may be doing a virtual visit or two during this time of COVID and we will STILL be impacting your quality of life for the BETTER without needing to put care or progress on hold for 2 or more months. If you are curious if I may be able to help you or to have me answer questions about working with me in person or virtually, I invite you to click the virtual consult link below and lets talk!
Given the PAUSE that we are all currently on, now may just be the PERFECT time for you to focus on YOU.