The significance of the physiotherapist-patient relationship from the perspective of the patient with chronic pain: A qualitative pilot study

Alexander, Sandra Margaret
MacCulloch, Tony
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The aim of this qualitative pilot study was to investigate and gain a greater understanding of the patient-physiotherapist relationship from the perspective of the patient with chronic pain. Four adults with chronic pain who had recently completed or were currently participating in an Activities-based physiotherapy programme volunteered to participate. To collect the data, four individual face to face semi-structured interviews of approximately one hours duration were held with each participant. The contents of the interviews were analyzed for themes relevant to the physiotherapist-patient relationship. Themes that emerged were grouped into three categories according to their significance and role. Four Driver themes: ‘showing understanding’, ‘engendering trust’, ‘being credible’ and ‘explaining’, interacted with each other and had a strong effect on patient motivation. A further five themes: ‘communication’, ‘working style’, ‘supporting’, ‘challenging’ and ‘physiotherapist attributes’ served to ensure that the Driver functions could proceed. Four contextual themes: ‘relationship development’, ‘relationship strength’, ‘family role’ and ‘ACC’ constituted a framework within which the patient-physiotherapist relationship functioned. The ‘motivation’ theme was found to have a significant role in the physiotherapist-patient relationship. The physiotherapist-patient relationship which consists of both the physiotherapist-patient interaction and the therapeutic intervention was seen as having a significant role in motivating patients to engage in the physical treatment. Due to its non-physical nature and physiotherapy often focusing on physical treatment it is often neglected. However, it has the potential to have a powerful role in motivating the patient to engage with physical treatment. It is important that physiotherapists are aware of the physiotherapist-patient role and have adequate interpersonal skills to bring about an effective relationship. Further investigation into the physiotherapist-patient relation from the perspective of the patient is recommended.

Physical therapists -- New Zealand , Chronic pain -- Physical therapy , Therapist and patient -- New Zealand
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