The Influence of Perceptions and Beliefs of Civilian Physiotherapist Working for the Ministry of Defence in their Management of Back Pain: An Exploratory Study using Mixed Methods

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Background: There is a high prevalence of Lower Back Pain (LBP) within military populations. Physiotherapeutic management has a primary role for patient care, but there is a need to establish the most effective management. Civilian physiotherapists provide the majority of clinical provision throughout the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Programme for British Armed Forces personnel. To date no study has been carried out looking at their perceptions and beliefs with regards to management of non-specific LBP and the potential impact this had on the delivery of rehabilitation across Defence. Methods: This mixed methods exploratory study aimed to explore the potential complexities surrounding the decision making process with regards to management of non-specific LBP using semi-structured interviews with 14 MOD civilian physiotherapists. All interviews were transcribed verbatim. The transcribed data was then subjected to a categorical content analysis. Results: The analysis of the interview data revealed four interrelated themes that influence civilian physiotherapists in their management of back pain in military personnel: the military environment, integration of military procedures, physiotherapist treatment approach and communication. Discussion: This paper highlights the value civilian physiotherapists place on experience when managing non-specific LBP. This experience however was gained through 'patient mileage' rather than integration of best evidence into practice. Several problems were identified in patient management including specific types of patients and their expectations and the importance of the right communication between Health Care Professionals, but also with patients.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-21
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012