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Psychologically informed physiotherapy for chronic pain: patient experiences of treatment and therapeutic process

Abstract

Objectives

Psychologically informed physiotherapy is used widely with patients with chronic pain. This study aimed to investigate patients’ beliefs about, and experiences of, this type of treatment, and helpful and unhelpful experiences.

Design

A qualitative study using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of semi-structured interviews.

Participants

Participants (n = 8) were recruited within a national specialist pain centre following a residential pain management programme including 2.25 hours of physiotherapy each day. Participants were eligible for inclusion if they had achieved clinically reliable improvements in physical functioning during treatment. Interviews were conducted 3 months post-treatment.

Results

Participants reported differing experiences of physiotherapy interventions and differences in the therapeutic relationship, valuing a more individualised approach. The themes of ‘working with the whole of me’, ‘more than just a professional’, ‘awareness’ and ‘working through challenges in the therapeutic relationship’ emerged as central to behavioural change, together with promotion of perceptions of improved capability and physical capacity.

Conclusion

Psychologically informed physiotherapy is an effective treatment for some patients with chronic pain. Participants experienced this approach as uniquely different from non-psychologically informed physiotherapy approaches due to its focus on working with the patient's whole experience. Therapeutic alliance and management of relationship ruptures may have more importance than previously appreciated in physiotherapy.

Cite this article

Psychologically informed physiotherapy for chronic pain: patient experiences of treatment and therapeutic process, Wilson, S. et al.

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