See How Robots Are Assisting In Physical Therapy
Fri, December 9, 2022

See How Robots Are Assisting In Physical Therapy

Robotics will help physical therapists, not replace them / Photo Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych (via Shutterstock)


Physical therapists play an essential role in the design, development, and operation of sensing technologies and robotic interfaces, wrote Len Calderone of RoboticsTomorrow, a robotics and automation news platform. They are proactive partners who collaborate with engineers to discover new innovations that will help improve best practice principles for patients. Physical therapists are also providers of performance development, rehabilitation, and risk-reduction services. They play a significant role in formulating standards for the practice of physical therapy and in enhancing health care policy to ensure their services are available and accessible. 

Rehabilitation robots use sensors to examine human movement and positioning. They can also improve clinical assessments. Many of these robots are capable of tracking and storing the limitations of a patient’s performance, which can be useful in long-term clinical evaluation. Since rehabilitation robots can detect and monitor slight changes in movements and forces, these help therapists manage treatment plans and set goals. 

Virtual reality is also utilized in conjunction with rehabilitation robots to “increase the range of physical therapy exercises, motivation and the physical effects of treatment.” Moreover, virtual reality offers patients with visual, auditory, and tactile feedback. In the restorative setting, for instance, virtual reality and robotics can be used to control, monitor, and enhance the patient’s interaction with their environment to facilitate functional recovery.  These systems have been studied for use for patients that suffer from motor and sensory disorders of the central nervous system such as stroke, cerebral palsy, and more. 

Human therapists need help in putting evidence-based therapy into practice. Hence, AI-powered robotic physical therapy systems can aid therapists by detecting any movements during therapy sessions, thereby delivering personalized assistance to patients. This system can approximately record 600 to 1,000 movements in each session, unlike human therapists that can only detect over 32 to 80 physical therapy movements. 

Providers must reassure patients that robotics is used as a tool to improve their therapy results. They should also orient them on the concerns and misconceptions about robotics. Robots do not have the dexterity akin to human touch. Human touch is key in physical therapy, making the profession inherently humanistic. Overall, robots act as a complement to physical therapists, not as a replacement.