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What Do Patient Value in Physical Therapy?


physicla therapist guiding a patient on a row machine

Physical therapists (PT) experience tensions between the choice of treatment they feel is best for their patients and the beliefs and attitudes of patients themselves. Patients in PT practice often experience a lack of feeling believed or being understood by their physiotherapists. Patient values are parts of the concepts ‘evidence‐based practice’ (EBP), ‘value‐based practice’ (VBP) ‘patient-centered care’ (PCC) and are also embodied in the declaration of Helsinki.


In these concepts, patient values are considered to lie at the heart of high‐quality healthcare practices and underscore the importance to consider aspects that people value in healthcare practices such as being taken seriously, being treated by a competent professional, feeling safe, and being involved in decision‐making. The aim of this study is to describe the aspects of physical therapy practice that people with musculoskeletal pain value in high‐quality care.

The majority of the participants indicate that personal recognition and the wish to be seen as a unique individual is important. Participants expect a deep understanding and acceptance of their personal environment and life choices.


PTs should be able to empathically understand their patients and fully accept their choices. The participants want to be well‐informed by the professional in order to make a good decision by themselves or to understand why a certain decision by the professional is the correct one. Respecting the patient's input in treatment and care by PTs is important to all participants.


An essential issue mentioned was independence. All participants value a physiotherapist who is competent, experienced, and has good communicative skills, such as being open, direct, and honest. Participants value a professional who acts morally in clinical decision‐making.


The PT must establish an ongoing commitment to the patient and remain honest, even though the problem or situation is complex. They must not lapse into a routine action and respect their own professional boundaries and honor existing commitments. Lastly, PTs should be aware of vulnerability and dependency, respect patient boundaries, create a safe and cooperative space, and empower the patient.


If you are a patient and the PT is not meeting your expectations, let them know. If the problems persist, find a new PT.

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