Can experienced physiotherapists identify which patients are likely to succeed with physical therapy treatment?


  • Chad E Cook Department of Orthopaedics, Duke University, 2200 Main Street, 27705 Durham, NC, USA
  • Thomas J Moore Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy, Duke University Medical Center, Clinic 1E, Trent Drive and Erwin Road, 27710 Durham, NC, USA
  • Kenneth Learman Department of Physical Therapy, One University Plaza, 44555 Youngstown, Ohio, USA
  • Christopher Showalter Maitland-Australian, Physiotherapy Seminars, PO Box 1244, 11935 Cutchogue, NY, USA
  • Suzanne J Snodgrass Department of Physiotherapy, University Drive, 2308 Callaghan, NSW, Australia



Prognosis, Prediction, Physiotherapist, Musculoskeletal, Spine


Background: The purpose of the study was to determine if clinician predicted prognosis is associated with patient outcomes. Methods: The study was a secondary analysis of data that were collected in 8 physiotherapy outpatient clinics. Nine physiotherapists with post-graduate training in manual therapy (mean 20.3 years of experience) were asked at baseline to project the outcome of the patients evaluated. In total, 112 patients with low back (74 %) or neck (26 %) pain were treated pragmatically with interventions consisting of manual therapy, strengthening, and patient-specific education. Outcomes measures consisted of percent change in disability (Oswestry or Neck Disability Index), self-reported rate of recovery (0–100 %), and percent change in pain (numerical pain rating scale). Hierarchical logistic regression determined potential factors (clinician predicted prognosis score (1–10) at baseline, dichotomised as poor (1–6) and good (7–10); symptom duration categorised as acute, subacute or chronic; same previous injury (yes/no); baseline pain and disability scores; within-session improvement at initial visit (yes/no); and presence of ≥ one psychological factor) associated with meaningful changes in each of the three outcomes at discharge (disability and pain > 50 % improvement, rate of recovery ≥82.5 % improvement). Results: Clinician predicted prognosis (OR 4.15, 95%CI = 1.31, 13.19, p = 0.02) and duration of symptoms (OR subacute 0.24, 95%CI = 0.07, 0.89, p = 0.03; chronic 0.21, 95%CI = 0.05, 0.90, p = 0.04) were associated with rate of recovery, whereas only clinician predicted prognosis was associated with disability improvement (OR 4.28, 95 % CI 1.37, 13.37, p = 0.01). No variables were associated with pain improvement. Conclusions: Clinician predicted prognosis is potentially valuable for patients, as a good predicted prognosis is associated with improvements in disability and rate of recovery.


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How to Cite

Cook, C. E., Moore, T. J., Learman, K., Showalter, C., & Snodgrass, S. J. (2015). Can experienced physiotherapists identify which patients are likely to succeed with physical therapy treatment?. Archives of Physiotherapy, 5(1).



Research Article