Social distancing is changing the way we do everything – no visiting family, no BBQ with friends in this glorious weather, businesses learning new ways to function, clash of the titans for a bag of toilet roll and a whole lot of juggling in the home to keep everyone occupied (husband included!).
As Physiotherapists we work across a huge spectrum of roles (it’s not all about massage). In my early career I worked as a respiratory Physio helping patients with breathing/clearing their airways on Intensive care, burns, and cystic fibrosis wards to name but a few. I have also worked rehabbing neurology patients (stroke & brain injury) and spent countless hours helping people get on their feet to leave Hospital. Every day my Physiotherapy colleagues are fulfilling these vital roles, working tirelessly on the frontline with COVID-19 patients and others, pushing to get home safely. I can’t thank them enough! I too will soon be joining their ranks as our profession is called upon to do our bit where we can.
In the meantime, Musculoskeletal Physios (traditional rehab of back pain, knee pain etc) and myself in ante and postnatal care have been dealt a blow. Much like the bulk of the working world we cannot currently ‘go to work’. My first thought (panic); how can I give my patients the treatment they need when I can’t see them? More to the point when I cant touch them! We Physios tend to be tactile, social beings and I know I speak for my contemporaries when I say we were concerned how we were going to give Mums the help they need from afar. Equally, how might I save myself from going loopy with lack of social contact (as captivating and downright adorable as he is, my 18 month old doesn’t yet hold a gripping conversation).
Lucky for us we live in a world where technology reigns and it has come to our rescue somewhat hasn’t it? Within days Physios everywhere had responded with a plan to deliver care via virtual means; collectively we have stepped up our game. It turns out that the world of video consulting has evolved enormously and I have to admit my initial scepticism has been overturned. In the space of just 2 weeks we have developed a methodical way of effectively delivering patient care at reach.
Don’t get me wrong, initially there were challenges behind the scenes that could have featured on you’ve been framed
– The classic fiddle with camera angles (would you prefer the upward double chin or headless woman demonstrating a squat?)
– Finding a suitably calm space at home free from a background of paw patrol
– Juggling childcare (we’re all thinking of ‘that guy’ hilariously disturbed by his kids live on the news).
Toddler teething problems aside, I now have a great setup where I can calmly get into ‘work mode’; I am clearly visible to patients while talking, and can listen to and demonstrate exercises in the same way I would do face to face. I have to admit I feel empowered and quite frankly delighted that I can still treat my patients, continue my passion and keep my family safe!
The main limitation from my perspective is that I can’t perform a pelvic floor examination via video consultation (for obvious reasons). However, I have still been able to gauge whether a pelvic floor contraction is likely happening through body position, posture and patient description. From this I can teach appropriate pelvic floor exercises and stretches with demonstration on screen. The rest of the assessment and treatment is largely the same but adapted to suit the video call.
Patients I have already treated via the new ‘video’ platform have been pleasantly surprised and don’t feel they are missing out via screen appointment:
Thank you for still seeing me, I feel stronger.”
This was exactly what I needed, reassurance, advice and a firm plan
I’ve had no pain since taking your advice.
My symptoms have gone for the first time in years.
So here we are, working through this new and different ‘normal’, becoming more resourceful and adaptive than ever before. Speaking to my Mummy MOT colleagues (Pregnancy/Postnatal specialists) we have all had to leap outside our comfort zones. Despite this, we are plugging away to do the best we can, in the most efficient and easily accessible manner possible, because we care and we love what we do! In all honesty, I am planning to continue offering a video consult service even when we can leave our homes. It has allowed Mums from all over the country to access my treatment and advice without having to worry about childcare, travel costs or difficulties that prevent them coming to my clinic.
So, if you are struggling while pregnant, have been suffering with an issue since having your children or want to safely return to exercise but don’t think we can do anything for you during lockdown, please don’t suffer in silence. We CAN and WILL do everything we can for you remotely.
Stay safe, keep positive and Mum’s you are doing an AMAZING job in this lockdown, remember to look after YOU too!
My top tips for video consultation with your Physiotherapist–
- Get set up with your phone propped up or laptop with camera able to see you clearly in standing and ready to move into lying. This will enable your Physio to see and assess you properly. Setting up in advance will ensure you don’t feel flustered.
- Write down any questions you want to ask so that you can feel reassured after your appointment
- Have a drink of water at the ready
- RELAX. We can’t wait to help you
By Ellie Wright – Physiotherapist looking after new and expectant Mums