Telerehabilitation yielded positive outcomes for low back pain during COVID-19 pandemic

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Results showed telerehabilitation for patients with low back pain was equally as effective as in-person physical therapy, with a trend of higher effectiveness when used for all visits throughout the entire episode of care.

Mark W. Werneke, PT, MS, and colleagues used propensity score matching to analyze functional outcomes and satisfaction in patients with low back pain (LBP) who received telerehabilitation (TR) for “any,” “few,” “most” or “all” therapy visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among 91,117 total episodes of physical therapy, 5,013 (5.5%) had TR involvement in some capacity. According to the study, researchers also analyzed three matched samples of patients who received synchronous, asynchronous or mixed TR modes.


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Overall, the only significant differences in functional score (FS) outcomes between matched samples were found among patients who had “few” (1.7) and “all” (+2) TR frequencies or among patients who received asynchronous (2.6) TR modes. Despite a slim trend toward increased effectiveness with TR, these point differences “suggest limited clinical importance,” the researchers noted in the study.

Except for those patients with the “most” TR frequency – who had “non-significantly fewer visits” – patients with “any” TR frequency had “significantly fewer visits” compared with patients with no TR. Researchers noted most patients were very satisfied with treatment results; however, a smaller proportion of TR patients reported being very satisfied with treatment results, except for those with the “all” TR frequency.

“A positive association between TR and rehabilitation outcomes was observed, with a trend for better FS outcomes and fewer visits when all care was delivered through TR,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Overall, this observational study showed that for people with LBP, physical therapy delivered through TR was equally effective as and more efficient than in-person care, with a trend of higher effectiveness when used for all visits during the episode of care,” they concluded.