Virtual physical therapy has quickly moved from a niche offering to the mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having more options is great, but it can also complicate decision making. Having an understanding of the benefits of both can help make clear which one would best help you meet your goals.
In-Person Physical Therapy
The main advantage of traditional “brick and mortar” PT is that the therapist is in the room with you. That means they can move around to see how you’re moving from different angles, physically adjust your position or movement as you exercise, and physically examine you – testing your strength, measuring your range of motion, etc. They can also use treatments such as manual therapy, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, manually-resisted exercise, kinesiology taping, or other hands-on treatments when you’re in the clinic.
In-person PT may work best for:
- New patients – The ability to physically examine you makes it easier for your PT to accurately diagnose what’s going on. Hands-on manual therapy may also help you get results faster.
- Post-Operative Patients – Following surgery many patients may require hands-on treatment from a rehab professional, making in-person PT the best option.
- Less active patients – If you’re not used to exercising and moving, having someone physically present to coach you along and keep you motivated can be a big benefit.
- Very active patients – If you’re a high level athlete recovering from surgery or trying to return to higher level activities, you’ll likely benefit from specialized training equipment and adequate training space to perform the exercises and drills you’ll need to perform (i.e. plyometric and agility training, advanced strength training, etc). In this case, in-person PT at a facility like Elite’s Sports Performance Center is the best option.
- People with complicated or chronic conditions – If your back has been hurting for the last 5 years and you’ve been ignoring it, providing an accurate diagnosis and treating it totally virtually will be difficult for your PT. Getting an in-person, hands-on evaluation is your best bet.
- Less motivated patients – Virtual PT requires you to do most of your exercises by yourself. If you need someone guiding you to make sure you do them and with proper form, in-person
PT might work better for you.
The main benefit of virtual PT is convenience. Because virtual PT relies on you doing most of your exercise and treatment on your own, appointments can be shorter. This also means that motivation is a prerequisite to choosing virtual PT. The fact that you don’t have to travel to the clinic makes it easier to squeeze a visit into a busy schedule or while you’re traveling.
Virtual PT may work well for:
- Patients with previous exercise experience and good body awareness – being on your own for your home exercise program requires you to be in tune with your body and how it’s moving.
- People with common overuse injuries – things like tendonitis, sprains, strains, plantar fasciitis, and overuse injuries are commonly treated by PTs. Because of that, there is a
template for exercise treatment that is easily adapted to individual needs. It may not be a substitute for hands-on therapy, but it may provide some benefit if in-person PT is not an option.
- People who are comfortable with technology – you don’t have to be a technology whiz, but having some familiarity with Skype, Facetime, or Zoom helps!
- Existing and returning patients – if your physical therapist knows you and in familiar with your diagnosis, it may be easier to treat you virtually.
Clearly, both options have benefits and limitations, but fortunately, today both options are available for many patients. One or the other might be right for you and your needs, but they’re not mutually exclusive. Combining the two can work well for some people. Doing an in-person visit for your initial evaluation and perhaps a follow up visit or two will let your therapist provide an accurate diagnosis and get you started on your exercise program. Once you’re comfortable with your exercise program, you can transition to virtual visits.
Here at Elite Sports Performance & Physical Therapy in Stoughton and Foxboro, we are able to provide both options to most of our patients. If you or a loved one may be in need of Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy, please give us a call today! For PT in Stoughton, call us at 781-436-0391. For PT in Foxboro, call us at 774-332-1723. For more information about Physical and Occupational Therapy at Elite, please visit HERE.