Everything You Need to Know About Telehealth for Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy

 You’re probably hearing a lot about telehealth, or “video visits” as a way to receive treatment, but you’re not quite sure what it is and what it means to you as a patient. We want to answer the questions you may have in regards to telehealth for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.  You don’t have to suffer through the COVID-19 crisis in pain, Prairie Rehabilitation is here to help. If you have any questions other than the ones listed below, please call our main office at 605-334-5630.

We asked one of our physical therapists, Jeff Steinberger, for his perspective on working with patients via telehealth. Steinberger has worked primarily with low back and hip pain patients but has patients with other injuries scheduled for the coming weeks. Here’s what he had to say: 

“As a physical therapist, I have found telehealth very convenient for my patients. With minimal moving of the camera to demonstrate and observe, it has been easy and very safe for those that we have chosen to use video visits. Video or virtual visits have been very handy and I expect will become much more common in the future due to the ability to complete from the home.”

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is the means to deliver therapy to people in need of services through secure technology—smartphone, tablet, or computer with a camera. Your therapist is responsible for developing a plan of care and for providing the delivery of that care. You receive a comprehensive visit with your therapist in the comfort of your home.

What do I need to participate?

Prairie Rehabilitation is offering telehealth to patients via a device—smartphone, or a tablet, or a computer with a camera. Our patient care coordinator schedules your appointment; you receive a secure link via email. Click the link, and you are ready to go.

How will I benefit from telehealth?

1. Convenience. There is no transportation time or costs. You can save money on gas, and the time it takes to drive to the clinic.

2. More convenience: there’s no need to take time off work. You can schedule your appointment during a break, over your lunchtime or before or after work. You can see your therapist from anywhere you feel you have enough privacy.

3. Even more convenience: eliminate child or eldercare issues. If you are caring for others or even serving as a teacher, you don’t have to find someone to fill in for you, which is even more challenging during social isolation.

4. Ergonomic evaluation: Let us help you get comfortable—from home work stations, sleeping positions, and other postural positions that may create pain.

5. Less exposure to illness – you won’t have to leave your home for therapy.

What if I just had surgery, or I’m getting ready for surgery; will this help me?

Physical therapists and occupational therapists are movement specialists, and movement affects improvement. Keeping your body and joints in motion is essential pre- or post-surgery.

We recognize that not all medical situations are right for telehealth, and you can trust our honest assessment of your case.

Does my insurance cover telehealth?

During the current public health emergency, most insurance companies are covering this service as if you were present in the clinic.

Is telehealth secure?

Absolutely. We are using the latest technology, which is HIPAA compliant. You are in the privacy of your own home, so you may access wherever you are most comfortable.

Who can I contact to find out if telehealth is right for me?

A list of our clinic locations may be found by clicking here, or through our Contact Us form here.


Our experience working with people who encounter work station-related pain shows that most problems have common causes. Some simple suggestions may be helpful to you. Try these ideas for a few weeks. If your problems persist, formal physical therapy and/or occupational therapy, or further assessment by your physician may be warranted.

1. Your monitor and keyboard should be directly in front of you.

2. Your eyes should be level with the top of the monitor and an arm’s length away. Bifocal users may need to lower monitor unless viewed through top part of glasses.

3. Utilize a document holder to avoid a downward rotation of your head.

4. The keyboard should be level with your elbows.

5. Your elbows should be at no more than a 90 degree angle and your shoulders should be relaxed.

6. The mouse should be next to the keyboard and at the same height.

7. Use a wrist rest if needed, but avoid resting your wrists while you are typing. Your wrist should remain neutral.

8. Utilize the backrest with an adequate lumber support while working.

9. Your hips and knees should be at a 90 degree angle with 2-3 inches between the back of your knee and the seat.

10. Your feet should rest on the floor or on a footrest.


  • Change tasks and/or positions hourly.
  • Consider a headset if you spend extended time on the phone.
  • Close your eyes occasionally or focus on a distant object to avoid eye strain
  • Take time out to do the exercises described next.

Tim Myers, OT at Prairie Rehab in Sioux Falls and Harrisburg says, “Good form will lead to good function, which ultimately will lead to good health. It is very important that your work station is adjusted to suit your individual needs.”


Tip your head to the side, trying to bring your ear to your shoulder. Keep looking straight ahead and try not to raise your shoulder to your ear. You may apply an additional stretch with your hand. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and alternate sides.

Stand or sit straight and tall. Tuck chin in and relax arms. Pull your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and down. Hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat.

Tuck your chin and pull your head back while continuing to look straight ahead. Make a double chin. Hold for 5 seconds, relax and repeat. 

Slowly rotate your shoulders in a full circle, first backward, then repeat in the forward direction.

Turn your head and try to look over your shoulder. You may apply an additional stretch with your hand. 

Straighten both arms out in front of you. Using opposite hand, stretch wrist back palm up. Then stretch wrist, palm down.

Lower your wrist from a straight position. Repeat 5 times. 

Clench fist tightly, then release, fanning out fingers. Repeat 5 times.

If your problems persist after attempting the above exercises, a more personalized program may be appropriate. Ashley Hoyme, OT at Prairie Rehab in Minnesota says, “There is a difference between pain pain and good pain, you don’t have to live with pain that limits your opportunities. Occupations are your everyday activities and hobbies. What do you want to get back to?” 

Our therapy team at Prairie Rehab is ready to take the next step with you. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have. 

For those who cannot make it to out to one of our clinics, we also offer our Prairie at Home program. More information on this program can be found here. A full list of our outpatient clinic locations can be found here

About Prairie Rehabilitation 

At Prairie Rehabilitation our Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Hand Therapy and Speech Therapy experts are passionate about helping our patients reclaim their way of life and function. It’s about you; you are unique with distinct qualities, abilities, and needs. At Prairie Rehabilitation we embrace the philosophy of “Patient First” care; treating each individual with precise and personalized care. To achieve the best results and to speed your recovery, we are committed to utilizing the most clinically proven and current concepts in rehabilitation. 

Ashley Hoyme OTD, OTR/L completed her occupational therapy doctorate in May 2019 after obtaining her Master of Science OT degree in December 2014 from the University of South Dakota. She works at the Worthington Prairie Rehabilitation outpatient clinic, surrounding nursing homes and home health. Ashley has spent 5 years with Prairie Rehabilitation and enjoys rehabilitating shoulders and upper extremity injuries to help patients return to his/her daily occupations.

Timothy Myers, OTR/L graduated from the University of South Dakota in December 2011. He has worked for Prairie Rehabilitation in a variety of settings including skilled nursing, home health and outpatient. His goal is for individuals to be independent with their daily activities. Currently he works outpatient rehab with a focus on orthopedics and occupational health.

November = National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month!

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 16 million Americans and many more who don’t even know they have it. In fact, more than 65 million people worldwide have moderate or severe COPD. Experts predict that this number will continue to rise worldwide over the next 50 to 100 years.

Gidget McAreavey, OT at Prairie Rehab explains in the following article what COPD is, its causes and symptoms, and how occupational therapy can benefit those who have COPD.

What is COPD?

According to McAreavey COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a chronic lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both. It affects the lungs and causes reduced airflow, which makes it hard to breathe.

With COPD, she says the airways in your lungs thicken and become inflamed and the tissue where oxygen is exchanged is destroyed. The flow of air in and out of your lungs decreases. When that happens, less oxygen gets into your body tissues, and it becomes harder to get rid of the waste gas carbon dioxide. “COPD is a progressive disease which means it gets worse over time,” says McAreavey. Check out the infographic below for a visual of how COPD affects breathing.

What causes COPD and what are the symptoms?

Gidget states the causes of COPD are:

  • cigarette smoking – most common
  • secondhand smoke
  • dust
  • chemicals
  • outdoor air pollution
  • genetic factors

People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days.

How can occupational therapy help with COPD?

McAreavey states, “As occupational therapists, we specialize in assisting people to develop, recover, improve and maintain skills needed for daily living and work through therapeutic use of everyday activities.”

When working with patients who have COPD, occupational therapists can address:

  1. Compensatory breathing techniques
  2. Energy conservation techniques
  3. Stress management and symptom control
  4. Exercise
  5. Patient education and instruction on disease management
  6. Activities of daily living retraining with use of energy conservation and compensatory techniques to decrease symptom exacerbation
  7. Leisure activity exploration and participation

Occupational therapists can also assist a patient with COPD through lifestyle change, which is really what most of the above are addressing. When addressing these areas, occupational therapists are able to improve a patient’s occupational performance through habit and lifestyle changes such as: decreasing or quitting smoking, helping to avoid environmental triggers and increasing physical activity.

*Please note that physical therapy can also help with COPD. Physical therapy interventions are typically designed around an exercise program to improve oxygen exchange.

Jeff Steinberger, PT at Prairie Rehab says, “Due to the difficulty many people have with energy expenditures associated with COPD, we often start with our Prairie at Home program and transition to our outpatient clinics for further strengthening as the patient progresses.”

Gidget McAreavey, OTR/L, received her Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant in 1996 from the North Dakota State College of Science. She then went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy at the University of Mary. She has worked at Prairie Rehab for 19 years and serves patients at our Sioux Falls and Hartford clinics, along with providing in-home therapy patient care through our Prairie at Home program.

Our therapy team at Prairie Rehab is ready to take the next step with you. To schedule an appointment or get more information, please call our main office at 605-334-5630. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

More information about our Prairie at Home program can be found here. A full list of our outpatient clinic locations can be found here.

About Prairie Rehabilitation

At Prairie Rehabilitation our Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Hand Therapy and Speech Therapy experts are passionate about helping our patients reclaim their way of life and function. It’s about you; you are unique with distinct qualities, abilities, and needs. At Prairie Rehabilitation we embrace the philosophy of “Patient First” care; treating each individual with precise and personalized care. To achieve the best results and to speed your recovery, we are committed to utilizing the most clinically proven and current concepts in rehabilitation.

Infographic Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/copd-learn-more-breathe-better/social-media-posts

Illinois dad walks again just 7 months after car crash left him paralyzed

April 28, 2017 – Illinois dad Cole Thomas walked out of rehab seven months after a car crash left him paralyzed.

“On my way to work with a fully loaded work truck, I had a deer run out in front me and I swerved into the ditch and once I tried to get it back up on the road I over-corrected and we rolled off the opposite side of the road,” Thomas, 34, of Rochelle, told ABC News. “While we were rolling my seat belt came off. I heard a click and felt a flap in front of my face and then I got thrown around like a rag doll.”

Read full article >>

Snow Shoveling

Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. Back injuries due to snow shoveling are more likely to happen to people who may not know that they are out of condition. Following these tips can help you avoid injuries:

  • Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Be sure to take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”
  • Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
  • Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling: stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backwards slightly for several seconds.
  • If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain, consult a licensed physical therapist.

Visit one of Prairie Rehabilitation’s 14 outpatient clinics, conveniently located just for you.