What do patients with chronic spinal pain expect from their physiotherapist?

Steven J. Kamper, Tsjitske M. Haanstra, Kathy Simmons, Mike Kay, Tony G. J. Ingram, Jeannette Byrne, Jenna M. Roddick, Alissa Setliff, Amanda M. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Evidence has suggested that patients’ expectations influence the clinical course when they present with low back pain (LBP). However, little empirical evidence has outlined the nature of these expectations. The aim of this study was to describe LBP patients’ expectations of physiotherapy. Method: Seventy-nine adult patients who had LBP for more than 16 weeks and were referred for physiotherapy at two hospital physiotherapy departments in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, were included. They filled out a questionnaire detailing their expectations of treatment. Results: Before treatment, more than 90% of patients expected a physical examination, tests or investigations, a diagnosis, reassurance and advice, and clear explanations of causation, symptom management, and benefits and risks of treatment. Approximately half hoped for a prescription or referral to a specialist, and about 60% hoped to discuss problems in their life. Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that patients attend physiotherapy with clear expectations about what information should be provided. Most expected tests or investigations leading to diagnosis and an explanation of causation; this presents a challenge for clinicians, given the current understanding of LBP reflected in international practice guidelines. The fact that more than half of the patients wanted to discuss problems in their life points to the need for physiotherapists to consider LBP from a bio-psychosocial perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-41
JournalPhysiotherapy Canada
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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