Is It Safe to Get Physical Therapy During COVID-19 Pandemic?
Updated: Apr 25
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all parts of our lives, including how we treat our health and prioritize health care.
Many treatments that are not deemed absolutely vital are still postponed because patients feel they should wait it out until the coronavirus cases go down.
However, with the pandemic stretched out to year now, this course of action is unsustainable and harmful to people's health and wellbeing.
That's why it's important to find ways to benefit from such services as physical therapy safely even during these difficult times.
So is it safe to get physical therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Physical Therapy is an Essential Service
First of all, it's crucial to establish that physical therapy is an essential service that should be continued even during a pandemic.
It would be wrong to neglect your PT needs, especially for such an extended period as the current pandemic.
For patients who have delayed their sessions and are generally moving less due to various restrictions, there can be profound implications in functionality, everyday life quality, and health in general.
Physical therapists work to improve people's quality of life through exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. That's why continuing your treatment plans is essential.
Is it Safe to Go to a Physical Therapy Clinic Right Now?
The short answer is yes. PT clinics adhere to strict safety protocols and do everything in their power to ensure the protection of their patients' health.
Most clinics follow the CDC and local health department guidelines and recommendations to keep up with the most safety and health policies and practices.
At the moment, some of the appointments are scheduled online to reduce the number of people coming in physically. Your first appointment or a follow-up that doesn't involve any hands-on therapy may be virtual.
At the front desks, all patients are usually screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure. If they show any or there's any doubt they're sick, these patients are now allowed in.
Lastly, the patients are scheduled with breaks between sessions, and if a staff member is ill, they stay home.
New Physical Therapy Clinic Protocols
Indeed, PT clinics usually have high cleaning standards, but currently, they're even more rigorous to follow guidelines for physical therapy during COVID-19.
The check-in process is now often digitalized to prevent any crowding at the reception, private rooms are used even more often, and hand sanitizer is available everywhere.
The therapists wear masks, gloves, use hand sanitizers and soap all the time. All the surfaces and equipment are constantly disinfected, and items such as blankets get changed between each patient.
Patients are also asked to wear face masks throughout their session unless they need to remove the covering for treatment.
Covid-19 Restrictions and Regulations
Depending on the state and its regulations, PT clinics must follow strict COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.
There are now often limitations to who can accompany the patient to the clinic, so your family member will probably be asked to wait outside.
It's also about scheduling changes to limit the number of patients at the clinic and establishing strict social distancing rules (e.g., no waiting in the waiting rooms).
How You Can Help Make it Safer
Even though the clinics and therapists do everything in their power to make it safe for you to get physical therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are things you can do too.
Firstly, stay up to date with the CDC and local regulations.
It's also important to acknowledge your personal situation and opt for a telehealth option if you're in a high-risk group.
People over 65 and those with underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, have a higher risk of developing dangerous symptoms if infected with coronavirus disease.
In that case, APTA recommends refraining from seeking in-person care to limit possible exposure to the virus.
If you're attending an in-person session, you should come prepared, wearing a face mask, use hand sanitizer and be compliant with your clinic's new rules.
Needless to say, if you feel any symptoms at all, you should cancel the appointment.
If you're scheduled for a virtual appointment, make sure you set up your room, so you have enough space to move, lie on your back and follow PT's instructions.
Set up your laptop or phone so the therapist can see you well, have additional light available, and ensure appropriate internet speed.
What kinds of physical therapy can be done virtually?
Many therapists were offering virtual therapy before COVID-19 and have the necessary experience.
Nevertheless, it can be a challenging transition to shift from in-person to online sessions.
The initial evaluation can be done via telehealth, where the therapist will measure your posture, flexibility, mobility and assess your strength. Be ready to move based on instructions and adjust for better visibility.
And while hands-on therapy such as massage might not be possible, therapists can be of immense help during various exercises and movements.
Think of something like an online yoga class where you follow instructions and are given verbal adjustments and tips live.
A virtual class bonus is that your therapist can see your home environment, work chair, and desks and give tips on how to make it all more ergonomic.
Is at-home physical therapy as effective as in-person visits?
Thanks to the newest technology, virtual at-home physical therapy is an incredible substitute. It still has its limits, though.
It functions best as a supplement to regular in-person appointments and when they are not possible.
A good option is to combine these during the pandemic to limit your visits and possible exposure but still get the best of your treatment.
Physical therapy during COVID-19 is an essential service, and the clinics are doing an incredible job ensuring a safe environment for their patients.
If you're not in a high-risk group and sick, you should strongly consider continuing your treatment and attending your appointments.
Alternatively, seek virtual physical therapy sessions or reduce your in-person visit number by replacing, e.g., live exercise sessions with online ones. Contact Miracle Rehab Clinic and book your appointment now.