New Tech Developments Taking Place in The World of Physical Therapy

Physical Therapists are successfully integrating apps, VR, and other technology into treatment, giving them new capabilities and giving patients new options.

The field of physical therapy is constantly changing as new treatment methods, and technologies emerge to improve both diagnosis and therapy practices.

Recent developments have pushed the industry in new directions and led physical therapists to update their approaches in a variety of ways. We have seen many physical therapists follow this approach in order to maximize the benefit to their patients. For example, through technological advancements, direct access to physical therapy in New York and other places all around the country are possible.

Physical therapists are also exploring how these technologies can benefit their patients and their businesses:

Mobile Apps

Smartphones and tablets have become normal parts of our daily lives in the last decade, and they are just as critical for physical therapists. There are already a number of effective physical therapy apps, and the majority of practicing physical therapists have found ways to integrate mobile devices into their treatment plans and patient interactions.

PTGenie, for example, is a physical therapy app directed at patients who want more guidance when performing exercises at home. Others provide everything from definitions of common terms to effective orthopedic home diagnosis tools. Physical therapists are always looking for new ways to leverage mobile devices and applications to improve their practices.

Rehab Robots

Robots are also becoming a common tool for physical therapists who work with patients with cerebral palsy or who are recovering from strokes. Physical therapy is often critical to their recovery, helping them gain mobility, strength, comfort, and more.

With physical therapy robots, patients are capable of performing significantly more exercise repetitions during each session. Robots are able to monitor their progress and automatically increase or decrease the exercise speed as needed.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is often associated with gaming and niche use cases, but physical therapists have successfully applied VR and continue to discover new uses. Virtual reality rehab allows patients to pursue treatment in an immersive environment that’s different from any other treatment experience.

CAREN, a new VR system designed specifically for physical therapy, helps the elderly, disabled, and those with traumatic injuries develop their mobility and balance. This has been a major advancement for physical therapy and goes well beyond previous applications of virtual reality technology. 

Physical Therapy with Microsoft Kinect

Another traditional gaming technology applied to physical therapy is Microsoft’s Kinect. It allows patients and physical therapists to interact without being in the same place. The Kinect camera makes it easy for physical therapists to monitor progress and performance and check for correct form. This is a great way for patients to supplement in-person appointments and make sure their home exercise program is progressing as expected.

Physical therapy will always be about real connections and interactions, but there’s room for technology to offer intriguing new treatment opportunities. With these and other recent developments, physical therapists are able to provide more accurate diagnoses and treat patients more effectively. The importance of emerging technologies in physical therapy will only continue to grow as new applications are discovered. 


Rae Steinbach, editor for BetterPT, is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course. Twitter: @araesininthesun