Is Virtual Physiotherapy Effective?

So, you’ve finally decided to reach out to a physiotherapist to get help with those nagging aches and pains. With the ongoing global pandemic, you’re debating whether you should attend in-person physiotherapy or get started with virtual care. You’re unsure of the best option for your specific situation, and if virtual physiotherapy even works. Well, look no further because today we’ll be discussing the effectiveness of virtual physiotherapy, as well as which situations would benefit from virtual appointments compared to those that would be better in person.

What is virtual physiotherapy?

Virtual physiotherapy takes place from the comfort of your home via video calls with your physiotherapist. During these appointments you will have the opportunity to show and discuss your injury with your therapist, as well as demonstrate how your mobility has been impacted. For virtual physiotherapy, the majority of your treatment will consist of education and home exercises. While some individuals feel the need for hands-on treatment, it’s actually not essential for recovering from injury! In fact, research currently indicates that education and exercise are the main drivers of injury healing and recovery. Thus, in most situations virtual physiotherapy is equally as effective as in-person physiotherapy. That being said, there are a select few circumstances where in-person physiotherapy may be necessary. 

When is it necessary to receive in-person physiotherapy instead of virtual physiotherapy?

During the initial COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Ontario in March, 2020, physiotherapists were directed to shut down community-based in-person physiotherapy services with the exception of emergency care. Emergency care was defined as caring for individuals whose health would significantly decline without in-person treatment, which could place them at risk of hospitalization. This included individuals who were post-operative, such as after total hip or knee replacement, as well as individuals with severe, incapacitating dysfunction or pain. As such, if you fall in either of these categories, it would be valuable to receive in-person physiotherapy care instead of virtual physiotherapy.

Outside of the previously mentioned situations, there are a few more circumstances that would warrant in-person physiotherapy. For example, environmental limitations at home may create a challenge for receiving virtual physiotherapy. If you don’t have an appropriate space in your home to capture yourself on camera or to exercise, it may be challenging to complete the physiotherapy assessments and treatments. Another limitation for virtual physiotherapy may be technology. Your  physiotherapist will want to see your injury, as well as what movements you’re able to do. So, if you don’t have the technology available to video call, it may be better to attend in-person physiotherapy. Finally, if you’re mainly interested in the hands-on components of physiotherapy, you’ll definitely want to attend in-person sessions. As mentioned before, this is not necessary to achieve full recovery, but may be your preferred method of treatment.

In conclusion, virtual physiotherapy is often just as effective as in-person physiotherapy. For the vast majority of injuries, virtual physiotherapy will be sufficient for a full recovery. With that said, there are certain situations that warrant in-person physiotherapy instead of virtual physiotherapy. If you’re ever unsure, consult with your physiotherapist and they will advise you on the best course of actions based on your individual situation.


Do you need a doctor’s note for physiotherapy?

In Canada, physiotherapists are primary healthcare providers. This means that you can go straight to a physiotherapist to receive help without a doctor’s note. That being said, many private insurance companies may require a doctor’s note in order to provide coverage. It’s important to check with your insurance company before booking an appointment to see if they require a doctor’s note for your physiotherapy coverage. While some physiotherapy clinics provide direct billing (they charge your insurance directly), many clinics will receive payment from you first and then provide an invoice that you can submit to your insurance. It’s important to be prepared to pay for your physiotherapy appointments and then receive reimbursement later on. Furthermore, if you require any imaging for your injury, you’ll need a doctor’s requisition.

Still not sure what to expect with your virtual physiotherapy session? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury. 


Liam Newlands
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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