How to Get Physical Therapy in the Middle of a Pandemic

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Originally posted by Shoshannah Buxbaum via Consumer Reports

Expect video sessions, uncrowded waiting rooms, masks, and diligent disinfecting

Back in March, Anne van Hemmen—who had become partially paralyzed from a stroke the previous fall—was making considerable progress toward recovery. Every week, a physical therapist visited her at home in Fair Haven, N.J., and took her through exercises to help her regain mobility on her left side.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. After skipping two weeks of therapy, van Hemmen, who is 60, started video sessions in April. Her daughter Abby held the camera, and her husband Rik helped her complete the exercises. Now, van Hemmen is getting in-person physical therapy at home again—but her therapist stays at least six feet away.

The spread of COVID-19 has complicated treatment for all sorts of patients, but the close contact necessary for physical therapy presents special challenges. Even as some states begin to reopen, many physical therapy offices are continuing to limit risk for providers and patients by offering sessions over video and retrofitting clinics to abide by social distancing and infection control best practices.

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Even in states still on lockdown, physical therapy is generally considered “essential,” says Karen Litzy, DPT, a physical therapist in New York City and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). But “we want to reduce the risk as much as possible for everyone involved,” she says.

What Physical Therapy Looks Like Now


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