Should You Schedule a Virtual Visit with a Physical Therapist or Orthopedist for Pain Now?

Sometimes life feels like it’s come to a grinding halt thanks to COVID-19. But unfortunately, orthopedic issues don’t stop just because you’re in quarantine. In fact, new habits may make you prone to new injuries, aches and pains. And you probably aren’t itching to head to a doctor’s office at the moment.

Enter OrthoCarolina’s Telemedicine video visits. Conducted via Zoom, these video visits allow patients to chat with a provider from the comfort of their homes. But we wondered, what issues can be treated via virtual visit, and when do you need to see a provider in-person? We spoke to some of the experts at OrthoCarolina to find out.

Schedule a Virtual Visit for:

  • mild to moderate pain (such as knee or lower back) that’s keeping you awake at night
  • a flare-up of an existing injury
  • continuing an existing physical therapy regimen
  • post-operative check-in (be sure to remove any dressing or bandages right before the call so the provider can look at your incision)

Nagging Pain

Had nagging pain for a while, but you just haven’t wanted to head into the office? PA Jeffrey Dabkowski said this is the perfect time to schedule a virtual visit.

“Some people have a lot of questions that have been building up. If it’s something you were seen for more than a year ago, for example, and you had been wondering if you should go in, now it’s easy to do from the comfort of your home,” he said. “We can answer those questions — we can make time for you. Or if you have a sick parent, or husband, or child and can’t risk exposure, we can catch up without you having to go anywhere.”

Exercising More or Differently

Getting active at home could also mean a flare-up of aches and pains, but just because you aren’t going to the doctor it doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence.

“There are lots of people who have been out exercising more and something has gone from sore to really irritating. It’s not an injury or an ‘a-ha’ moment but some glute pain or hip pain,” Dabkowski said. “After a virtual visit we can send home exercise plans and anti-inflammatory medicines, and plan to see them in the office when things settle down.”

Continue your physical therapy at home

Physical Therapist Blair Hartney said one big benefit of virtual visits is patients’ ability to show providers exactly what they’re doing for their home care plan, such as which equipment they’re using. She said it’s also easy for PTs to show patients exercises via video chat, and watch them to make sure they’re doing the moves the right way.

“It’s nice because I can still see patients’ full range of motion, and I’ll get them to show exactly which ball or equipment they’re using,” she says. For example, if she tells a patient to use a ball and they don’t have a ball, she can suggest a hand towel or throw pillow and the patient can show her each item to make sure it will work.

“It’s reassuring to have someone see you and say ‘It’s going well’ and it’s nice for patients to see they haven’t lost the progress they were making,” she says.

Virtual Visit How-Tos

Call OrthoCarolina directly and have your insurance info handy.
Dr. Claire Bingham said in her experience, many insurances are covering virtual visits and for those that won’t, there are plenty of self-pay options.
Once your virtual visit is scheduled, you’ll be sent a Zoom meeting invitation and simply need to click the link at your appointment time to be connected with a provider.

Bingham suggested wearing comfortable clothes you can move in, and go to an area of your house where you have enough room to spread out and lie down, if necessary.

You’ll also want relatively good lighting, a good WiFi signal and a place to set your laptop, phone or tablet that will allow the provider to see most of your body (or the affected area).

“For a PT evaluation, we’ll have them get up and walk, move the injured body part just like how we would in an in-house visit,” Bingham said. “We might have them move their arm in different directions or for back pain I can have them stand different ways and see what hurts.”

Hartney said just like in an in-person visit, she’ll show patients exercises and stretches to use at home to strengthen muscles and joints and keep pain at bay.

Physical Therapist Blair Hartney illustrates an exercise via Zoom.

Bingham said providers will be watching during virtual visits to see if any “red flags” arise that would mean the patient needs to be seen in the office.

Urgent Care offers video visits too

These virtual visits are scheduled during regular business hours, but if you sustain a minor injury on the weekend, OrthoCarolina’s Urgent Care offers video visits from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call them at 704.323.2436 for issues like:

  • Strains, sprains, minor dislocations, and closed fractures
  • Painful, swollen or injured joints of the ankle, back, elbow, foot, hand, hip, knee, neck, and shoulder
  • Cast or wound dressing issues

When It’s Time to See a Doctor In-person

Of course, not every minor injury or pain can be treated virtually. If any of these applies to you, you’ll likely need to be seen in-person, sooner rather than later.

  • Minor car accident/whiplash
  • Back pain accompanied by numbness or tingling in legs
  • Possible fracture (no bone showing — if so, head straight to the ER)
  • Difficulty bearing weight on one or both legs
  • Anytime pain is above a 7/10 on the pain scale

If you find yourself having to head to an OrthoCarolina office for a major issue, germ-safety is probably the last thing you want to worry about.

Dabkowski said OrthoCarolina is taking several measures to keep in-office patients and providers safe from COVID-19.

“Before any patient is even appointed to come into the office, we give an extensive two-page screening questionnaire on the phone to make sure they’re not high-risk,” he said “Then they’re screened again at the door and have their temperature taken. There are a very limited number of patients allowed in the office at this time and we’re limiting providers in the office at this time to allow for social distracting and spacing.”

Those same screenings apply to caregivers of wheelchair-bound patients as well, he said.

Get the orthopedic care you need in a way that works best for you.

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