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What COVID-19 Means for Physiotherapy

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

By Alyssa Brunt MScPT, BScKIN (HON)

Happy Friday everyone! Whether you’ve spent the last few weeks crushing home workouts, finding your inner yogi, binge watching Netflix or mastering 1,000 piece puzzles, keep it up! Spend this time doing whatever you want and most of all, however you want! 

Personally, I’ve dipped my toes into a bit of everything over these past 7 weeks. I’m in the routine of doing home workouts, yoga, listening to podcasts and reading but I’ve also devoured all 3 seasons of Ozark, cut my own hair (which turned out surprisingly well), and unleashed my inner Betty Crocker. Most importantly, I’m happy, healthy, and feeling grounded during these stressful times.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything over these past few weeks, it’s that change brings opportunity. Let’s face it, change is tough. It’s uncomfortable and scary and we never know how it’s going to turn out. But how can we expect to grow and get better as individuals and as a collective society, if we are resistant to change? When social distancing started, like many of you, I panicked! I absolutely LOVE my job. If you didn’t know, physiotherapy is an essential service, however, only for emergency cases. As a result, physiotherapists were asked to find ways to deliver care outside of in person appointments, which isn’t something we’ve ever had to do. I will admit, I felt lost in the beginning of things like everyone else. I didn’t know where to begin with providing ‘virtual’ care. I wanted my practice back, I wanted my office back, and most of all, I wanted to see my patients and meet new ones.

Today’s blog is all about how physiotherapy has changed, for the better, during social distancing. What exactly is ‘virtual’ care and how does it compare to the physiotherapy treatments that you’re used to? Maybe you were a regular patient before the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you were on the right track to feeling better. Or maybe you were thinking about coming in for an assessment for the first time. Regardless, just know that we are still here for you! Physiotherapists are working harder than ever to provide you with the care that you need, from the comfort of your own home.

What is ‘Virtual Care’? 

Patients can now get ‘virtual’ physiotherapy care, but what exactly does that mean? First off, virtual care and telerehab are terms meant to describe a video appointment where a patient can still talk to a health care provider over video rather than in person. Think of it as a regular video call that you would use for meetings or chatting with friends. It’s SUPER simple! A video versus a phone call allows physiotherapists to see you move and groove in your home environment, allowing them to guide and correct your movement patterns, make adjustments to your office set ups and more.

What is a Video Appointment Like? 

For anyone new to physiotherapy, an initial appointment will include a thorough history where you will be asked questions about your pain patterns, what makes things feel better or worse, when you developed the injury or pain, your stress and lifestyle behaviours and more. You’ll also be asked to perform some movements and functional exercises that allow the physiotherapist to assess the quality of your movements and evaluate your form. Afterwards, the physio will provide you with individualized strengthening exercises, stretches, education and guidance for recovery.

For those of you returning for treatment, exercise progressions, postural correction and improvement of exercise form will all be provided to help the body become stronger. Remember, the body takes time to get stronger and only does so when the system as a whole is pushed beyond the limits of what it’s used to!

The road to recovery is a two-way street. Physiotherapy appointments range from 1-2x/week at about 30-60min. Outside of this, it’s all on YOU to help get yourself feeling better. Physios provide manual therapy alongside education, guidance, individualized exercise programs, and stretches but afterwards you are accountable for making sure you do your homework. The power to get better is in your hands as much as mine.

What about manual/hands-on physiotherapy? 

Yes, physiotherapy is largely a hands-on profession. Personally, I am a very manual based practitioner. My hands allow me to release tight muscles, move joints, correct exercise postures and more. But social distancing means no touchy! COVID-19 has made it clear that physiotherapists must find creative ways to deliver care to their patients. Of course hands-on physiotherapy has its place but there is SO much more that we can do. It’s really only one tool in the toolbox.

In order to manage our pain and treat injuries, we need to look at the whole individual, not just their muscles and tissues. Remember this- pain DOES NOT equal tissue damage. Many things including stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, decreased exercise, and dehydration can affect your pain. If your body is lacking water, not getting enough sleep or is stressed about a work deadline or a relationship issue, the body will not be focused on healing an injury in your knee. It will be focused on getting your body regulated, your cortisol levels lowered and more.

Yoga, movement, social interaction (in a social distancing manner of course), mindfulness/meditation, and sleep are a few ways we can manage pain in terms of a biopsychosocial approach (i.e body, mind, environment). Think about it, have you ever had jaw pain and realized it was because you were stressed and clenching your jaw at night? Or neck pain/headaches that creeped up after spending more time on your computer? Or even increased urinary frequency because you drank extra caffeine over the past few weeks?

In all of these cases, there was no incident that caused the injury like a fall or a car accident. Stress, sleep, and diet affect the body and cause a reaction in the muscles and tissues. Hands on therapy is only a small part of the treatments physiotherapists can provide.

The Future of Physiotherapy 

When COVID-19 all began, business owners, health care practitioners, and pretty much everyone didn’t know how to get the things they were used to. And now, 7 weeks later we’ve got virtual farmers markets, online platforms for home workouts, Houseparty and Zoom for chatting with family and friends, and especially video appointments for all of your healthcare needs!

I will say, it’s kind of cool seeing everyone move forward together to make our world better, even though we’re all being told to stay physically apart.

Challenges are meant to be overcome. And that’s just what physiotherapists have done! By opening the door to video appointments, we have provided greater accessibility for physiotherapy services. It has open doors for those living in remote populations. Or for those suffering from severe pain that restricts them from leaving their home. Better yet, those new mamas who have a hungry baby that isn’t following their regular schedule. It is amazing how change is needed for our perception of care and how technology can help connect us virtually.

The healthcare world is changing for the better and I am here for each and every one of you, in any way that I can. Change is inevitable so we must embrace it, not evade it. 

What’s Next?

Just remember, I’m here to help you all during this time. Feel free to book a complimentary consultation over coffee with me and we can get you started on being more active each and every day


Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, not is it meant to diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any doctor affiliated with our website.

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