Two new technological advances have emerged that will help provide physical therapists with the best possible physical therapy regimens for their clients. Soft robots and a new computer program designed to monitor a patient’s mobility are two more advances that could soon become a staple in the physical therapy realm. As a physical therapist, it’s important to remain in the loop when it comes to new technology in the industry. Luckily for you, we’re here to break down some of this new technology in physical therapy that could keep your patients happy and healthy.
New Technology In Physical Therapy
This new technology has recently emerged over the last few years as a way to strengthen muscles and reduce pain in many patients. Soft robots are essentially robots that aren’t comprised of rigid parts, meaning that they’re usually flexible and are able to expand and contract without becoming uncomfortable for the user. While exoskeletons tend to be more rigid and structured, soft robots instead mimic the movements and feel of an actual muscle, which tends to play a vital role in physical therapy.
Soft Robots in Physical Therapy
This new technology in physical therapy is changing the way PTs set up their strengthening programs. Soft robotics and artificial muscles like these ones created by Swiss researchers will create an artificial muscle designed to strengthen the damaged area for patients.
The robots look like tiny worms that can wiggle, expand, and contract to suit the users needs. The materials used for the soft robots have to be rigid enough to withstand significant air pressure without distorting their shape, yet pliant enough to bend and stretch in muscle-like fashion; they need to be light; and they need to be sensitive to both quick blasts of air for strong movement and weaker blasts for more delicate, slower motion.
This very precise set of requirements is why the technology has not gone mainstream yet. As of now, these robots are controlled by a variety of pumps and electrical impulses, but researchers are quickly working to create a slimmer, more accessible version.
PT Computer Models
Another new technology in physical therapy could predict exactly how to tackle physical therapy by modeling a patient’s walking motion. Researchers funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a computational walking model that could help guide patients to their best possible recovery. Computational modeling uses computers to simulate and study the behavior of complex systems using mathematics, physics, and computer science.
The computer program will essentially collect data from the patient while they walk on a treadmill. Once the data has been collected, the program will map out the various forms of physical therapy the patient could undergo before ultimately choosing the best course of action. The program hopes to be able to predict the best-case scenario for patients my determining how well they could walk in the future.
While this program seems to be the best new technology in physical therapy, many are still skeptical of the model. Many question how a computer model can measure a patient’s motivation, stress, and other emotional variables that the program could not calculate. Another question would be whether or not the physical therapy programs would be financially viable. It’s nice to have the perfect physical therapy regimen mapped out, but if it’s not financially feasible, there’s no point.
As these technologies advance, it’s important to remain optimistic and vigilant. What is simply an idea today could be the next big breakthrough in physical therapy technology. What other new technologies have you heard about? Let us know in the comments below!