What Apps are Available for Physical Therapy?

Staff/Student Education and References

  • Muscle Premium contains more than 600 muscles, 200 bones, and hundreds of ligaments, peripheral nerves, and bursae for $19.99, making it a great resource for staff and students to review muscle origin, insertion, and nerve and blood supply. Plus, users can test their knowledge with dozens of muscle and bone quizzes. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s free on Android devices.
  • Learn Muscles: Anatomy is a simple reference, testing, and educational tool that breaks down 125 muscle images by name, action, origin, and insertion for only $2.99. Users also can use the app to create their own multiple choice quizzes. (Compatible with Android devices.)
  • Muscle Trigger Points provides users with access to more than 100 trigger points and referral patterns for more than 70 muscles. It’s $2.99. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s also available for Android devices here.
  • Core: Clinical ORthopedic Exam allows therapists to find specific tests, exams, and outcome measures necessary to reach objective diagnostic conclusions for musculoskeletal and orthopedic disorders. It’s currently $39.99. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s also available for Android devices here.

Clinical Use

  • StarT Back is a free prognostic questionnaire from Keele University that helps therapists and other clinicians identify the modifiable risk factors associated with back pain disability and match risk level with appropriate treatment. You can download the tool here or calculate the STarT Back score online here.
  • Goniometer is an easy and accurate method for digitally measuring angles to ensure that an object rotates to a specific position. This is physical therapist and WebPT president and co-founder Heidi Jannenga’s favorite app: “You simply place your iPhone next to the joint to be measured in line with the axis, use your finger to drag the arms to match the anatomical alignment to bony prominences, and it gives you the angle,” she says. “[It elicits] lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from patients.” (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Stopwatch & Timer is a handy free app that allows you to keep several timers running at once, which is a big help for timing Medicare patients and performing timed outcome measures. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) There also is a similar app for Android devices available here; it’s $1.45.
  • Medical Spanish is the top-selling medical Spanish phrasebook, complete with audio, search, conjugation, and bookmarking. It’s available for $5.99. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) There is a similar app for Android devices available here—and it’s free.
  • ICD10 Consult 2016 is a free and convenient tool that allows users to search for ICD-10-CM codes as well as review the coding guidelines and section and chapter instructions. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • TiltMeter is a free level and inclinometer for therapists to measure active or passive joint range of motion (ROM). (Requires iOS 3.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) There is a similar app available for Android devices here.
  • Dragon Dictation is a free voice recognition app that allows therapists to dictate status updates, reminders, emails, and texts. According to Dragon, this type of dictation results in communication that is up to five times faster than typing. (Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)

Patient Education

  • Shoulder Decide, Knee Decide, and Spine Decide are excellent—and free—options for discussing injuries with patients. You can use the tool’s detailed 3D models and animation to show patients the exact source of their pain as well as how popular treatment approaches can help repair the issue. You also can use your device’s photo or video capture to create your own digital handouts and safely send them to your patients through a HIPAA-secure web portal. (Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Muscle & Bone Anatomy 3D is great for showing patients the human musculoskeletal system. For $4.99, users can view the body, control the body in 3D, learn about the body by grouping muscles based on action, test their anatomy knowledge with six types of quizzes, browse 30 pages of muscle and bone information, and watch five embedded videos. (Requires iOS 5.1 or later. Compatible with iPad.) It’s also available on Android.
  • Pocket Anatomy is great for both PT students and patients because it allows users to peel away layers of the body in order to visually explore depth. Plus, Pocket Anatomy is 60% off right now, which means you can download it for only $9.99 (normally $19.99). (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch)
  • aVOR is a free teaching and training tool for the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) system and its associated disorders, such as BPPV. (Requires iOS 3.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
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What Apps are Available for Occupational Therapy?

Fine Motor and Spatial Reasoning

  • Dexteria Jr. helps toddlers and preschoolers develop fine motor skills through hand and finger exercises. The app is $2.99. (Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Dexteria VMI won the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award. It’s a $3.99 app that helps children of all ages improve their visual-motor integration skills through gameplay. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • P.O.V is a spatial reasoning game that helps children and adults differentiate between left and right, understand abstract math concepts, and develop a strong sense of space and time. It’s $3.99. (Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad.)
  • LetterReflex is ideal for school-based therapists because it helps children overcome backwards writing and letter reversals. It’s available for $3.99. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Ready to Print teaches pre-handwriting skills as a foundation for learning to write. It’s currently $9.99. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s also available on Kindle for $7.99.
  • iDoodle Card is a fun way to express creativity on an iPad. With five color pens and two erasers, this $0.99 app is ideal for working on basic visual motor and visual perceptual skills. (Requires iOS 4.2 or later. Compatible with iPad.)
  • iWriteWords is an adorable app that teaches handwriting through fun and engaging games. It’s $2.99. (Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Cut the Buttons is exactly what it sounds like: cutting buttons. Players move their thumb and index fingers to control virtual scissors and cut buttons off pieces of fabric for points. But watch out for the screws! They dull the scissors and reduce points. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) There is a similar app for Android devices available here for free.
  • Cookie Doodle boosts creativity and improves fine motor skills through virtually making—everything from pouring the vanilla and cracking the eggs—baking, decorating, storing, serving, and eating cookies. (Requires iOS 6.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Labyrinth is free a game where users move a steel ball through a wooden maze by tilting the device. (Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s also available on Android devices for $2.99.

Sensory and Cause and Effect

  • Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box provides children and teenagers who have visual impairment, autism, and developmental disabilities with abstract scenes that encourage touch, tap, and gesture exploration. The app is $3.99. (Requires iOS 5.1.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) This app also is available for Android devices here; it’s $2.48.
  • Fun Bubbles allows kids to create and pop brightly colored bubbles on screen, thereby improving fine motor skills and having fun—all for $0.99. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Fluidity is a free virtual lava lamp that children and adults can touch to change colors, viscosity, sparkle, and momentum. (Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Pocket Pond is a free application that plays nature sounds while users interact with real-looking fish, frogs, and water on screen. There’s even a thunderstorm option. (Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.) It’s also available on Android here.
  • Heat Pad is a free app that offers users a realistic simulation of several heat-sensitive surfaces that react to the warmth of their fingertips, thus improving their understanding of cause and effect. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)

Self-Help

  • Toothbrush Timer runs for two minutes, showing users how long they should brush their teeth. It also provides cues for which part of the mouth to brush by quadrant and tooth side. Plus, it’s free. (Requires iOS 4.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Put It Away is a free app that allows parents and teachers to customize a set of tasks to help users learn to clean and maintain a living space—a skill necessary to build independence. (Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.)
  • DialSafe Pro is a free app that teaches children how to use a phone and dial numbers through memorization exercises, lessons, and challenges. The app also lets children practice answering questions that a 911 operator might ask in an emergency. (Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)

What Apps are Available for Speech-Language Pathology?

  • Custom Boards is a premium ($49.99) evidence-based application that allows therapists and parents to use more than 11,000 symbols and 126 templates to create activity boards for individuals who need visual cues to communicate and learn. (Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.)
  • Speech Therapy Center is designed to improve patient articulation though 3D models of tongue shapes, 34 different card decks, and videos that demonstrate mouth placements for consonants and vowels. It’s $3.99. (Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.)
  • Describe It is a game-based application that helps children learn to describe things that they see. This $3.99 app provides users with audio clues in seven descriptive parameters: taste, touch, function, sight, hearing, smell, and category. (Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Toca Kitchen isn’t specifically for therapy; however, many speech-language pathologists use this $2.99 app for teaching pronouns paired with verbs, like “cut,” “mix,” “chop,” and “blend.” Plus, kids love cooking the food and watching the on-screen characters eat it. (Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Apraxia Picture Sound Cards uses evidence-based techniques to improve speech intelligibility for individuals with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) and severe phonological disorders. This $299.99 app allows SLPs to communicate with parents and digitally share children’s homework as long as the parent has the parental version of the application. (Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.)
  • Peekaboo Barn presents children with the opportunity to guess which cute, cuddly farm animals are hiding inside the barn based on their sounds. After the child guesses, he or she will see the animal and the animal’s name in one of 12 languages, which helps develop early literacy skills. This app is $1.99. (Requires iOS 5.1.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.)
  • Sentence Ninja is a multi-player, multi-level language game that helps school-age children and adults improve sentence structure skills. The app is available for $19.99. (Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.)

For more great applications for PTs, OTs, and SLPs—and to see what works best on iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini—head to the Apple App Store and type in physical (or physiotherapy), occupational, speech language, orthopedic, pediatric, or manual therapy in the search bar. For Android or Microsoft Surface-compatible apps, check the Google or Microsoft stores, respectively.

How do I Make Technology Even More Effective in the Clinic?

While using technology in the clinic can be tremendously beneficial for both practitioner and patient, it does open the door for distractions. Good thing there are ways to optimize your device for learning.

Guided Access

All iOS devices have a Guided Access feature, which therapists can employ to help patients stay focused on the learning task at hand. This functionality allows therapists to disable the Home button (so the device remains on one app) and restrict touch input on parts of the screen where a touch-happy finger might cause a distraction. For step-by-step instructions on how to set up Guided Access on your device, click here.

While there’s no Guided Access equivalent on Android devices, you can download SureLock, which has some of the same features, including the ability to hide the Home button.

Speak Selection

Because hearing a word while reading it can help improve comprehension, all iOS devices also have Speak Selection, which allows the device to read aloud selected text in an email, ebook, webpage, or iMessage. Once you’ve turned on this functionality for your device, you can activate it by double-tapping the text you wish to highlight and then selecting “Speak.” Both dialect and speed are adjustable.

Android users can enable Google Text-to-speech functionality in the settings menu.


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Heidi Jannenga

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