robotics in physical therapy

The Latest Technological Developments Within the World of Physical Therapy

As experts in the way the body moves, physical therapists are healthcare professionals who offer effective treatment to improve or restore mobility and relieve pain, reduce the need for surgery and prescription drugs, allowing patients to participate in a recovery plan designed for their specific needs.  A customized physical therapy program can help individuals return to their prior level of functioning, and encourage activities and lifestyle changes that can help prevent further injury and improve overall health and well-being.

Some of the exciting advances in the field of physical therapy might make you think of movies like The Bionic Man, The Terminator, or Robocop, but they are reality, and much more than just high-tech gadgets. Innovations in Physical therapy technology are designed to shorten patients’ healing times, increase comfort levels during treatment, and improve the overall quality of care and options available. In other words, the practices of technology and physical therapy combining allow for better patient care and outcomes.

The practice of physical therapy has seen many innovative gains in the past decade. With the arrival of newer technologies, more non-traditional approaches in physical therapy have emerged. Technology is opening doors to innovation in patient care and rehabilitation, ranging from robotics to social media and beyond. As new and enhanced therapies are always becoming available, this combined with physical therapy education and research, spells a better scenario for people who may need physical therapy now or in the future.

Some of the advances seem right out of a science fiction movie, as technological wonders can now bring movement to the disabled, access and provide alternative means of communication for those unable to respond in conventional ways, and robotic devices to assist therapists. It is a brave new world and physical therapy is benefitting from the advances. Here are the latest developments within the PT industry:

1. Aquatic Therapy:  For years, physical therapists have relied on aquatic therapy. Aquatic therapy is a non-weight bearing form of rehabilitation that helps strengthen weakened muscles and limbs. Aquatic therapy has improved with equipment that keeps the water warmer and circulating in a more effective way. The technological improvements in heating and circulation systems make treatment easier and more comfortable. The therapist can now direct the treatment with more accuracy.

2. Robotics:  Modern approaches to physical therapy are combining with technological gains. Ideas that were on the drawing board a few years ago, are now being tested by physical therapists. No area of physical therapy has undergone more changes than the field of robotic assistance and treatment. Manufacturers and therapists are combining to design equipment and therapies that help rehabilitate and strengthen limbs. Also, there are now rehabilitation robots that can detect impairments in post-stroke patients or measure the position, direction and speed of limb movements. Doctors believe that devices such as the Ekso Suit, will give hope to the disabled and those unable to walk. The Ekso Suit is an aluminum skeleton that fits around a patient and helps retrain their limbs for walking. According to research, robotics will soon help power the future of physical therapy.

3. Social Media: By using communication technology physical therapists can keep updated on the patient’s condition, offer suggestions to make them more comfortable and most of all be available for questions and concerns. Physical therapy has become more than the movement of limbs. People seem to respond better when there is an open patient/therapist communication. The advances in technology and social media make things easier and more efficient in means of communication, especially with platforms like Facebook, Skype and Facetime. The practice of physical therapy is being changed by the tech revolution. Social media is a good tool, as support and motivation play a big part in a patient’s recovery.

4. Video Games: The use of video game technology in PT has extended into virtual reality rehab, an immersive, interactive therapy experience in a virtual environment. Video game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii and the Kinect, use motion-sensitive controllers and repetitive movements similar to the exercises performed in physical therapy. Video game technology has proven to allow patients to improve their sense of balance, coordination, and mobility, offering physical therapists and doctors new opportunities for advancing diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. These programs not only allow therapists to monitor patient performance and track patient progress in real time, but also enables them to physically see their patients performing the exercises using the camera.

The main goal of physical therapy is to restore your function and mobility, and eliminate or minimize your pain so you can get back to your active lifestyle. People everywhere are experiencing the transformative effect physical therapy can have on their daily lives. This only shows that as technology continues to advance, so will the practice of physical therapy.

To find out more information about physical therapy, and how the new developments in technology can help you get back to the life you deserve, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online.