Until our lives were changed forever with the arrival of COVID-19 and the lockdown which started on 27 March, telehealth (online appointments) was not an option for physiothery in South Africa. However, the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) has now allowed telehealth as a safe and viable means of treating patients and some medical aids have provided codes for this service
Telehealth has proven to be an effective alternative option to treatment across several health care services and healthcare providers are using new and creative ways to address the needs of our patients. So, if all the twists and turns of garden running have finally caught up with your knees, there may be hope to get your training back on track
Although physiotherapists are not able to do any type of manual therapy through telehealth, there is still a lot that can be achieved within a session.
During a telehealth session your physiotherapist can evaluate movements and assess symptoms based on the patient’s response. They can also have the patient perform various tests that can be used to differentiate between various diagnoses and come up with a plan of action to move you forward.
What a physiotherapist can help with via telehealth
- Identify the injury/pain/movement
- Education re: injury/training/exercise
- Assess movement and injury status
- Prescribe and progress exercises
- Advice on self-management methods
How a telehealth session may work
The physiotherapist will send a private link to access the session where you will be able to see and talk to them .
Just as if you were seeing them in person, the physiotherapist will ask you various questions to determine what might be going on. From there they may move on to the physical assessment. The physiotherapist can assess movement through watching you do things like range of motion movements, squats, lunges, walking, etc. You may also be asked to demonstrate the aggravating movements. From there the physiotherapist will provide you with an assessment on what they conclude your possible diagnosis or injury could be.
From that working diagnosis the physiotherapist will proceed with the treatment. This may consist of strength or mobility exercises, self-management such as foam-rolling or hot/cold application. Throughout the session you may be asked to re-test the original aggravating movement to see if there is improvement. This will help to narrow down the exact cause and how to further address it.
To follow up the physiotherapist may then email you an exercise program that will assist in further managing the injury.
The aim of telehealth is to help you treat your problem, not only give you relief until you can go for a physical appointment. The goal remains to resolve the issue in a lasting way and give you, the patient, all the tools to help yourself. So that when things go back to normal, you are able to pace yourself back to running pain free.
We are not sure if the HPCSA will allow telehealth to continue but it is an exciting option to use during this period of lockdown. Not all physiotherapists will offer this service but, for now, at least the location of your practitioner is less important and you can see anyone nationally who does.
Alison Thomson Physiotherapists
Alison Thomson Physiotherapists are a team of experienced physiotherapists who offer comprehensive assessment, hands on treatment and rehabilitation services from their two practices in Cape Town and via telehealth. Read more about them here.