Health Check: How HRV Will Improve Your Physical Therapy Patient Programs


Heart rate variability (HRV) is an efficient, effective tool for physical therapists to measure and monitor the overall health of their patients’ autonomic nervous systems and then use that critical information to put them in the right program of care every time, which in turn has a direct effect on the patient’s physical and emotional well-being. 

Let’s review how physical therapists can use HRV to assess a patient’s nervous system and guide treatment decisions that will affect their functionality and wellness.

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in time between successive heartbeats. It is influenced by the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. 

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s fight or flight response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s rest and digest response. HRV can be measured using electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings or photoplethysmography (PPG) recordings from wearable devices. In the clinical setting, it is best measured through a physical therapy-specific HRV diagnostic system.

How HRV Assesses Autonomic Nervous System Health

HRV has been shown to be an important factor in determining the overall health of a patient’s autonomic nervous system. A higher HRV is generally associated with better autonomic nervous system function, while a lower HRV is generally associated with worse autonomic nervous system function. HRV has been linked to a wide range of health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

  • The Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that reduced HRV was associated with an increased risk of mortality in patients with heart failure. 
  • Another study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that reduced HRV was associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression in patients with chronic pain. 
  • The International Journal of Psychophysiology determined that HRV can also be used to assess the effectiveness of treatments for various conditions since HRV biofeedback is effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with generalized anxiety disorder.

How Physical Therapists Can Use HRV in Their Practice

Physical therapists are best suited to measure and monitor HRV to inform the status of their patient’s autonomic nervous system which gives them an edge on treating them appropriately.  

  • A patient with chronic pain and reduced HRV may benefit from relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation. 
  • A patient with cardiovascular disease and reduced HRV may benefit from exercise interventions that aim to improve autonomic nervous system function. 
  • A patient with chronic pain who undergoes a relaxation intervention may see an increase in their HRV over time, indicating improved autonomic nervous system function.

Watch this video to learn more about the advancements and research behind HRV for physical therapy:

Which HRV Diagnostic System is Best for Physical Therapy

To best improve wellness and recovery within your patients, we recommend this highly-rated Heart Rate Variability System

Everything is already set up to help you and your patients succeed. At the start and end of each session, use the system’s non-invasive, 5-minute HRV procedure to measure the patient’s autonomic nervous system balance and then make adjustments as needed to their program of care to reduce stress levels and increase overall health and mental function.

This clinical HRV system for physical therapy comes with a Tablet PC that is pre loaded for plug and play setup. Plus, every purchase includes onboarding and training for your staff with NeuPTtech’s expert support and resources. As an example, here is an image of the HRV scorecard we provide to new patients to help them understand their current nervous system health as it relates to the HRV score.

HRV Scorecard from NeuPTtech

Keep Your Practice on the Pulse of Innovation

HRV is a promising tool for physical therapists to assess the overall health of a patient’s autonomic nervous system. HRV can be used to guide treatment decisions and to monitor a patient’s progress over time. As research in this area continues to evolve, HRV may become an even more important tool for physical therapists to use in practice.

To learn more about HRV and get exclusive access to our HRV resources for physical therapists, contact NeuPTtech today!

NeuPTtech HRV Diagnostic System
Jason Waz
Jason Waz has always been a pioneer in the use of technology in Physical Therapy. It's what led him to found his company, NeuPT Technologies with his mission to bring the field of PT into the next generation through science, research and innovation. The NEUBIE device is the flagship product that was the inspiration for the company. As a “blue ocean” product, it has untapped potential in the PT marketplace. The positive effects the electrical stimulation device has had on every patient it has touched has paved a path for innovation awards in the near future and incredible patient outcomes in the meantime.  From a personal business growth standpoint, when Jason added this technology to his business, it increased revenue to record levels every single month with an improvement of over 56% compared to the prior 5 year average. Additionally, cash pay increased more than 200% over the same time period. This same growth has been proven to be achievable by any practice that adopts this technology. Interested in getting similar results? Let's chat!

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