Benefits and Considerations for In-Home Physical Therapy

If you have a problem that results in pain or loss of functional mobility, you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist. Your therapy will be focused on helping you restore normal mobility so you can get back to the things you enjoy.

A PT working with a man in his home
Stígur Már Karlsson / Heimsmyndir / Getty Images

Physical therapy care may be provided in a variety of different settings. Obviously, if you are hospitalized, your therapy may be provided by a physical therapist who works at the hospital. If you require sports therapy, you may go to an outpatient PT clinic.

Some patients have difficulty leaving the house to go to physical therapy. These people may still enjoy the benefits of physical therapy in their home. A physical therapist may come to their house to work with them to restore normal functional mobility.

So what is in-home physical therapy, who how might you benefit from PT in your home?

What Is Home-Care PT?

Home-care physical therapy occurs when a physical therapist comes to your home to provide rehabilitation services. This type of service is reserved for patients who are unable to leave the house to attend PT. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Your condition is acute or severe and leaving the home presents a health risk
  • Your functional mobility is limited and you cannot travel to therapy
  • You lack adequate transportation or access to transportation to get to your physical therapy
  • You simply desire a private PT session in your home

Most physical therapy services in the United States are covered by insurance, and certain rules apply to home-care physical therapy to be covered by your insurance carrier.

For most insurance plans, physical therapy in your home will be a covered service if you are able to demonstrate significant barriers to you leaving the house. These barriers may be due to your injury or illness or due to your inability to travel.

If you choose to have PT at home just because it is convenient for you, your insurance company may not cover the service and you will have to pay for the therapy yourself.

How Do You Get In-Home PT?

If you suffer an injury or illness that limits your ability to move around normally, you may benefit from PT. And if you cannot leave the house, home-care physical therapy may be the best option.

Most patients who receive home-care physical therapy are referred to the service by their healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can make the referral to a local visiting nurse service that offers physical therapy, and he or she can attest that home services are medically necessary. This medical necessity report will likely also state that home-care physical therapy is needed because you are unable to leave the house due to your condition or circumstances.

If you feel you may benefit from physical therapy at home, you can also call your local physical therapy clinic or visiting nurse association. Those organizations can help you navigate the pathway to receiving home-care PT.

Who Can Benefit From It?

So how do you know if you can benefit from home-care physical therapy? In general, if you have any problem that results in a loss of functional mobility, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist. And if you are having difficulty leaving the house, a PT can come to your home. Conditions that may require home-care physical therapy may include:

If you have a problem that keeps you from moving normally and if it is burdensome to leave your home for therapy treatment, you may benefit from having your rehab in your home.

What If I Don't Qualify?

Sometimes, patients want to have home-care physical therapy, but their insurance company denies coverage. This may happen if your insurance company determines that your condition does not warrant in-home physical therapy. It may also occur if you have not proven that you are unable to leave your home or if leaving your home for PT presents a significant burden.

If home-care services are denied, you may have a right to appeal. Call your insurance company and ask about an appeals process. You may also wish to call your healthcare provider's office to explain your situation. Your healthcare provider may be able to help you navigate the appeals process.

If you do not qualify for home-care PT, you can attend physical therapy at a local outpatient clinic. Of course, you will have to travel to the clinic for treatment. Your outpatient physical therapist should be able to provide you with home exercises to do in order to limit your trips to their facility for rehab.

You may also wish to simply pay a private home-care physical therapist to come to your house for therapy if you do not qualify for services. However, this option may be financially burdensome.

Is In-Home PT Effective?

Many people wonder if home-care physical therapy is effective. Why? Because many believe that you need expensive, heavy equipment and exercise tools to engage in an effective rehab program. This is not necessarily true. Your home-care physical therapist is trained to utilize available resources to maximize your rehab experience. He or she can also bring light equipment to your home to ensure you get the most out of your physical therapy.

A 2016 study published in the journal Orthopaedic Nursing examined the functional outcome of patients after total knee replacement surgery. Some of the patients in the study had home-care physical therapy followed by outpatient PT, while other patients attended outpatient PT only. The authors of the study found no difference between the two groups when looking at function and range of motion (ROM) measurements. Having PT at home after knee replacement did not provide significant benefit, but it also did not contribute to a negative outcome.

Another small study found that patients who suffered upper extremity hemiparesis and weakness after a stroke had an improved outcome and satisfaction with outcome after receiving in-home therapy services. This study only included six patients, so it is not considered very powerful. Still, it indicates that there may be a positive benefit to home-care physical therapy.

While having home physical therapy, you will hopefully get better. As your condition improves, your functional mobility may improve, and you may be able to start leaving the home regularly. If this happens, your home-care physical therapist may discontinue in-home services. At that time, you may continue your rehab in an outpatient PT facility.

A Word From Verywell

Working with a physical therapist after illness, injury, or surgery can help you recover full functional mobility. This can allow you to return to your normal work and recreational activities. Sometimes, your injury or your personal circumstances may prevent you from safely leaving your home to attend physical therapy. If this is the case, you may benefit from home-care physical therapy. Working hard at home with your PT can help you have a positive outcome to regain maximal functional mobility.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Warren, Meghan, et al. A Comparative Study to Determine Functional and Clinical Outcome Differences between Patients Receiving Outpatient Direct Physical Therapy versus Home Physical Therapy Followed by Outpatient Physical Therapy after Total Knee ArthroplastyOrthopaedic Nursing. 35(6). November/December 2016. DOI: 10.1097/NOR.0000000000000295.

Additional Reading
  • Florez-García, M, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Home-Based Exercises versus Individualized Supervised Outpatient Physical Therapy Programs after Total Knee Arthroplasty: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy : Official Journal of the ESSKA., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2017. DOI: 10.1007/s00167-016-4231-x.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.