April 22, 2020
Remote Physiotherapy, myth busting and what it can do for you!
Did you know that musculoskeletal disorders, such as arthritis and back pain, affect an estimated 10 million (1/4) of UK adults? Additionally, 1/3 of those with musculoskeletal disorders experience associated mental health disorders, and a whopping 1/3 of all long-term sickness absence is due to musculoskeletal disorders.
Musculoskeletal disorders are a range of conditions that involve the muscles, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues of the body. These can include sports injuries, soft tissue injuries following car/work accidents, or other aches and pains often developed with prolonged postures, awkward postures, or simply due to lack of fitness. In the current climate, many people are finding themselves developing aches and pains from the sudden change of pace – whether that be working from home in unaccustomed positions, relative inactivity if they are no longer doing their usual manual work or gym training, or even from starting new activities with all their free time, be it a new hobby, new form of exercise or simply fitting that bathroom you’ve been promising your partner for months and now don’t have an excuse for.
Research shows us that, in order to ensure a swift recovery and minimise the risk of developing longer term, or secondary physical or mental health problems, active rehabilitation should begin as early as 48 hours after onset of symptoms in most cases. Our experience, backed up by mountains of evidence, tells us that people who receive rapid access to assessment and advice for musculoskeletal conditions from a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist are far more likely to recover quicker. Delayed assessment and advice can often lead to chronic problems which are far harder for us to help with!
A remote physiotherapy consultation with a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist is a safe alternative to face-to-face physiotherapy and offers a number of unique advantages when managing musculoskeletal conditions, including rapid access to assessment, advice and onward referral if needed, as well as the convenience of not having to travel to appointments.
There are, however, a number of myths surrounding the physiotherapy profession that are highly relevant when discussing remote physiotherapy. Here is a selection of some of the most common myths!
Myth: ‘I need to see my doctor/nurse before seeing a physiotherapist’
Fact: Physiotherapists are autonomous practitioners and, as musculoskeletal experts, they are highly skilled and knowledgeable in anatomy, pain, musculoskeletal wellbeing, musculoskeletal pathology and rehabilitation, and exercise therapy. This means that we have the expertise to be able to assess, diagnose and treat most musculoskeletal disorders without input from other professions.
Myth: ‘You can’t tell what is wrong without seeing me in person.’
Fact: 80% of a physiotherapist’s decision making comes from their history taking. While body movements and special tests completed by a patient (often without us even touching the patient) can help us to visualise function level, a holistic, detailed and thorough history taking is most important in determining your diagnosis, problems, and most effective recovery pathway. This history includes many questions about how your symptoms started, what your symptoms behave and feel like, general fitness and lifestyle, general mental and physical wellbeing, as well as your individual social factors, beliefs and values. These latter factors ALWAYS have an impact on a person’s symptoms and recovery, to varying degrees, and are often the most important predictors of long-term problems.
Myth: ‘Don’t physiotherapists just do hands on treatment?’
Fact: While hands-on therapy, including mobilisations, massage and acupuncture, can help in some cases, the evidence tells us that the benefits of hands-on therapy are usually short term, and hands-on treatments are never recommended as stand-alone options. In fact, our experience and the extensive body of available research tells us that education, advice and individualised exercise programs are actually what provide the long-term benefits. In my own professional experience, some of the most effective ‘treatment’ sessions I have had with patients have simply involved listening, education, discussion, and most importantly, reassurance and confidence building! It never fails to amaze me that just talking can have such profound effects on pain and function, which in turn allows people to once again engage in the activities that they value most.
What can you expect from remote physiotherapy consultations?
- Telephone or video calls at an agreed and convenient time using the technology that suits you.
- A thorough and holistic assessment of your musculoskeletal issues, your general health and wellbeing and the problems you are having engaging in your usual activities, including specific questions to help rule out more serious problems and give reassurance (this is often the biggest and most important step in the recovery journey!)
- A diagnosis with clear explanations to help you understand what is going on in your body and why you are feeling what you are feeling, in order to allow you to take ownership of your condition.
- Specific, expert, evidence-based advice about how to best manage your condition including signposting to reliable web-based resources.
- The opportunity to discuss your concerns and ask questions about your condition and its management.
- A clear rehabilitation plan based on your individual needs including a progressive exercise program to not only help improve symptoms, but also to ensure they do not recur in future.
Our specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapists are available now for remote physiotherapy consultations, including privately funded consultations and referral from occupational health services or private medical insurers (we are registered with all major private medical insurers, including Bupa and AXA, and have been given authorisation to deliver remote consultations).