Disclosures: Gruner reports being chief medical officer of Limber Health Inc. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
January 26, 2022
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Digital exercise therapy may improve pain, function vs conventional physical therapy

Disclosures: Gruner reports being chief medical officer of Limber Health Inc. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Use of a digital exercise therapy application may improve knee pain and function compared with conventional physical therapy and shows no difference in adherence, according to published results.

“This is one study but it’s one of, hopefully, several studies that will be coming out showing that a hybrid model of in-person and digital care can provide great outcomes for patients,” Marc P. Gruner, DO, MBA, RMSK, CAQ, sports medicine physiatrist and chief medical officer of Limber Health Inc., told Healio. “It allows physicians and physical therapists to be involved with what’s going on at home by remotely monitoring patients with their therapy outside of the clinic.”

Gruner and colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants with knee pain to undergo either conventional physical therapy (n=29) or physical therapy with the Limber digital exercise therapy application (Limber Health Inc; n=31). Researchers considered Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS) pain interference and physical function scores as the main outcome measures, and adherence to therapy was the secondary outcome. Researchers also monitored patients for adverse events throughout the study.

Marc P. Gruner
Marc P. Gruner

Results showed patients in the digital exercise therapy group had a significantly greater decrease in PROMIS-pain interference scores at 8 weeks compared with the conventional physical therapy group. Similarly, researchers found patients in the digital exercise therapy group also had a significantly greater increase in PROMIS-physical function scores at 8 weeks. Researchers noted 66.7% of patients in the digital exercise therapy group achieved the minimal clinically important difference in PROMIS-pain interference and physical function scores vs. 46.2% and 34.6%, respectively, of patients in the conventional physical therapy group. Researchers observed no group differences in adherence and no patients reported adverse interventions at 8-week follow-up.

Although early physical therapy and adherence to physical therapy have been shown to improve outcomes and decrease downstream health care costs, Gruner noted 12% of patients attend physical therapy and, of those patients, 30% attended physical therapy consistently. Gruner said a digital exercise therapy application may not only help patients be more consistent with their physical therapy, but it may also allow the prescribing physician and physical therapist to communicate with one another and continuously monitor their patients.