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Remote physiotherapy for digital nomads is just a Skype call away

There’s nothing like getting injured to throw a spanner in the works when you’re earning a living abroad as a Digital Nomad. It doesn’t even have to be as serious as falling off an elephant. (Serves you right!) Just that persistent niggle in your neck from sitting hunched over your laptop for far too long can thoroughly spoil your adventure.

Picture of a digital nomad in a hammock using a laptop to consult with a remote physiotherapist.

But hey, you’re used to doing lots of stuff remotely, aren’t you? Making money, wrangling your personal admin and keeping in touch with friends and family. So why not have your injury treated remotely? Yes, remote physiotherapy is a *thing*!

In this post:

  • How remote physiotherapy works

  • Why remote physiotherapy is so useful for Digital Nomads

  • Please don’t do this

How remote physiotherapy works

People often ask me how I treat my remote patients without being able to touch them. The answer is simple: a massage may make your injury feel better for a while, but it doesn’t heal it. My clinical experience and the latest research say it’s the right combination of rest and exercise – based on an accurate diagnosis and taking your lifestyle into account – to help along your body’s natural healing processes that does the trick.

Here’s the drill when you have your first remote physio consultation with me:

  • We hook up via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or whatever video platform suits you;

  • I have a chat with you about how you got injured, your lifestyle and your daily routine to give me a good understanding of the injury and its surrounding circumstances;

  • I ask you to do some movements while I watch and you give me feedback on what you feel and experience – the tests are similar to the ones used in the clinic and help me to figure out exactly what you have injured as well as what your muscle strength, flexibility and control are like;

  • Then I guide you through a palpation examination and get you to examine different parts of your body by hand to distinguish between different ligaments, muscles and bones;

  • All this helps me to get to a diagnosis, which I discuss with you;

  • I compile a personalised treatment plan based on your diagnosis, lifestyle and abilities and explain it to you;

  • If this includes exercises, I get you to do them so that I’m happy that you’re doing them correctly;

  • We wave goodbye and log off;

  • I email you a written report summarising the examination findings and treatment plan as well as pictures and/or videos of the exercises;

  • I’m available on email for two weeks after the consultation if you have any questions or concerns.

Voilà! (You can read more about the nuts and bolts of it all here.)

Picture explaining the benefits of a remote physiotherapy session. Follow this link to read more about how remote or online physio works

Why remote physiotherapy is so useful to Digital Nomads

With having to live and work in many various settings, things aren’t always as ergonomic for Digital Nomads as we’d like them to be. Yes, you escaped the 9 to 5, but actually you’re more at risk of work-related aches and pains than someone who’s had their own office desk and chair set up *just so*. Not to mention long stints on public transport and having to lug all your possessions and kit around with you every time you move base.

You’ve learnt the basics of the local language and maybe you can even hold your own in an argument after a tuk-tuk accident. But do you really feel up to communicating your needs properly and getting injury advice in a lingo you’re not familiar with? With remote physiotherapy, you can summon a medical professional who speaks your language.

Physio treatment often involves more than one consultation. You’ve been living and working in Medellín and your next face-to-face appointment with your physio is in two weeks’ time...but by then you’re due in Buenos Aires!

Back *home* (wherever that is) you might have been content to tough it out on the couch while your sprained ankle takes care of itself. But it sucks to be stuck in an Airbnb while everyone else goes off to gorge themselves on street food at the night market. Get yourself sorted so that you can make the most of your lifestyle.

Please don’t do this

You may be tempted to hack your injury by googling it for a DIY cure. Please don’t.

A Harvard study of 23 online symptom checkers examined how accurate their diagnoses and triage recommendations were. The findings don’t exactly inspire confidence. “The online services listed the correct diagnosis first in about one-third of instances and listed the correct diagnosis in the top 20 possible diagnoses in more than half of cases. Concerningly, symptom checkers provided varying triage recommendations, with appropriate advice ranging from 33% to 78% of evaluations.”

It takes years of clinical experience to figure out exactly what’s going on with an injury and what to do about it. I’ve been a physio since 2004 and I’ve been fixing people remotely since 2014.

So if you’re struggling with an injury or aches and pains that won’t go away, please feel free to get in touch. I won’t really judge you if you fell off an elephant.

Best wishes


About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ResearchGate