What do patients referred to physical therapy for a musculoskeletal condition expect? A qualitative assessment

Review written by Ben Cormack info

Key Points

  1. Clinicians should seek to answer four questions for their patients: “What is wrong with me?; “How long will it take me to feel better?”; “What can I do [as the patient]?”; and “What can you [the physical therapist] do for the pain?”.
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BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE

Musculoskeletal pain complaints are common and costly in society, and seeking treatment from a physiotherapist is a recommended course of action supported by clinical guidelines. One of the things that can influence the outcomes of treatment is patients’ beliefs and expectations associated with the treatment that they receive.

Louis Gifford (1) suggested that patients want to know the answers to four questions during their consultation:

  • “What is wrong with me?”
  • “How long will it take me to feel better?”
  • “What can I do [as the patient]?”
  • “What can you [the physical therapist] do for the pain?”

Previous studies have not investigated whether these points that Gifford proposed align with patient expectations. The aim of this study was to “qualitatively assess patient expectations for physical therapy prior to an initial evaluation for a musculoskeletal pain condition”.

Musculoskeletal pain complaints are common and costly, and seeking treatment from a physiotherapist is a recommended course of action.
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If clinicians are giving out exercises, they should take some time to thoroughly explain how to do them so that their patients are confident when performing them at home.

METHODS

  • This was a qualitative study using a structured interview process. The authors used pragmatism and phenomenology as its theoretical basis. Phenomenology allows unique individual perspectives and conscious experiences to be gathered effectively.
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