Attitudes and beliefs of military physiotherapists and their influence on the management of chronic low back pain: a qualitative investigation

J. W. Heywood, Isobel Helen Ryder

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


The study used a qualitative methodology to explore the attitudes and beliefs of military physiotherapists and how these influenced the management of military patients presenting with chronic low back pain. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a sample of 16 military physiotherapists; the transcripts were analysed using a method of thematic content analysis.

Analysis of semi-structured interviews undertaken resulted in the identification of six themes. These were: military culture, occupational issues, continuing professional development, clinical reasoning, need for cure and labelling the patient. The importance of understanding the occupational demands on their patients was considered highly significant by all of the military physiotherapists interviewed. However, there appeared generally poor knowledge of the biopsychosocial model in the management of low back pain and over-reliance on the medical model. Three-quarters of the military physiotherapists interviewed expressed frustration in their management of patients with low back pain. Similarly, the military physiotherapists displayed a poor awareness of current evidence-based clinical guidelines for the management of low back pain.

The themes military culture and occupational issues were significant in influencing the military physiotherapist's clinical management. The highly physical and arduous nature of military occupations resulted in investigative procedures being requested at an earlier stage than is recommended in the current evidence-based guidelines. Justification for early investigations was provided on the basis of the unique occupational factors combined with requirement to optimise the number of military personnel able to deploy operationally.

It was concluded that the management of low back pain in military personnel could be improved by increasing awareness of the current evidence-based guidelines. This would benefit both patients and the Armed Services, by reducing the disability caused by low back pain and increasing the number of operationally deployable service personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6
JournalOrthopaedic Proceedings: A Supplement to The Bone and Joint Journal
Issue numberSupp 32
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventSociety for Back Pain Research - Odense, Denmark
Duration: 10 Jun 201011 Jun 2010


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