Real-time telerehabilitation for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions is effective and comparable to standard practice

This study evaluated the effectiveness of treatment delivered via real-time telerehabilitation for the management of musculoskeletal conditions, and determined if real-time telerehabilitation is comparable to conventional methods of delivery within this population.

Two reviewers screened 5913 abstracts in six databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL, PEDro, psycINFO, CINAHL) from inception to November 2015 for literature which reported on the outcomes of real-time telerehabilitation for musculoskeletal conditions. A total of 13 studies (n = 1520) met the eligibility criteria. Methodological quality was assessed using the Downs & Black ‘Checklist for Measuring Quality’ tool. Results were pooled for meta-analysis based upon primary outcome measures and reported as standardised mean differences and 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Aggregate results suggest that telerehabilitation is effective in the improvement of physical function (SMD 1.63, 95%CI 0.92-2.33, I2=93%), whilst being slightly more favourable (SMD 0.44, 95%CI 0.19-0.69, I2=58%) than the control cohort following intervention. Sub-group analyses reveals that telerehabilitation in addition to usual care is more favourable (SMD 0.64, 95%CI 0.43-0.85, I2=10%) than usual care alone, whilst treatment delivered solely via telerehabilitation is equivalent to face-to-face intervention (SMD MD 0.14, 95% CI -0.10-0.37, I2 = 0%) for the improvement of physical function. The improvement of pain was also seen to be comparable between cohorts (SMD 0.66, 95%CI -0.27-1.60, I2=96%) following intervention.

Real-time telerehabilitation appears to be effective and comparable to conventional methods of healthcare delivery for the improvement of physical function and pain in a variety of musculoskeletal conditions.