Real-time telerehabilitation for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions is effective and comparable to standard practice: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Rehabil. 2017 May;31(5):625-638. doi: 10.1177/0269215516645148. Epub 2016 May 2.


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of treatment delivered via real-time telerehabilitation for the management of musculoskeletal conditions, and to determine if real-time telerehabilitation is comparable to conventional methods of delivery within this population.

Data sources: Six databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL, PEDro, psycINFO, CINAHL) were searched from inception to November 2015 for literature which reported on the outcomes of real-time telerehabilitation for musculoskeletal conditions.

Review methods: Two reviewers screened 5913 abstracts where 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).

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

Keywords: Musculoskeletal disorders; Telemedicine; systematic review; telerehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Telerehabilitation / methods
  • Telerehabilitation / standards*