Telerehabilitation review

This review looks at how real-time telerehabilitation for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions is effective and comparable to standard practice.

Aims of the project:

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of telerehabilitation for the management of muscle injuries and pain
  • To determine how telerehabilitation compares to face-to-face treatment.

Publication details: Published in Clinical Rehabilitation 2017, Vol. 31(5) 625-638. Cottrell MA, Galea OA, O’Leary SP, Hill AJ and Russell TG.

Stakeholders involved:

  • School of Health and Rehabilitation Science; Centre for Research Excellence in Telehealth  - University of Queensland
  • Physiotherapy Department, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital


  • Chronic pain can be a serious burden affecting all aspects of life and contributes to diminished quality of life
  • Chronic musculoskeletal conditions are a leading cause of pain and disability
  • There is a growing body of evidence recognizing the importance of psychological interventions, such as motivational interviewing, in chronic musculoskeletal pain population
  • Telerehabilitation may be useful in the management of chronic pain.


  • Results suggest that telerehabilitation:
    • is effective in the improvement of physical function
    • combined with usual care is more favourable than usual care alone
    • is equivalent to face-to-face treatment for physical function
  • The biopsychosocial model is considered best practice with a key component of active self-management
    Improvement of pain was also comparable between the two groups.


  • Regardless of the condition, telerehabilitation intervention or the medium used, the improvement of pain was comparable between cohorts
  • This review provides further support to previous positive results for the use of telerehabilitation in the management of musculoskeletal conditions
    • further rigorous clinical trials should consider how telerehabilitation impacts self-efficacy in chronic conditions
  • Caution needs to be taken generalising these findings.


  • In the management of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions,  telerehabilitation:
    • is considered to be a viable option
    • appears to be superior when compared to current standard practice for the improvement of physical function
    • is equivalent, and not inferior, to face-to-face care in physiotherapy management in a total knee arthroplasty population
  • Telerehabilitation may be used to overcome issues with access to face-to-face care (eg. rural and remote locations).