Indicators of adherence to physiotherapy attendance among Saudi female patients with mechanical low back pain: a clinical audit

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 Jun 17;11:124. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-11-124.


Background: Among current musculoskeletal interventions used to treat low back pain (LBP), physiotherapy exercise has the highest evidence of effectiveness in avoiding recurrence and chronic disability. However, effectiveness of physiotherapy is thought to be directly related to the patients' adherence to physiotherapy. Since adherence is reported to be directly influenced by socio-cultural factors, this study was conducted to investigate factors related to patients' adherence in a group of Saudi female patients with LBP.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted on female LBP patients referred to the department of physiotherapy at a local tertiary hospital over a 12 month period. A total of 98 charts were reviewed. Two physiotherapists specialized in musculoskeletal rehabilitation collected information from the medical files. Data were classified in three categories: patients' personal demographics, patients' medical condition and history, and type of physiotherapy administered. Contingency tables and chi-square test were computed to test for differences in proportions. Spearman rank correlation coefficient was calculated to examine relationships among variables.

Results: Subjects who attended their scheduled appointments were classified as adherent (40%), and those who failed to attend 2 consecutive scheduled appointments and got discharged were classified as non-adherent (60%). Factors that significantly correlated with adherence included: age (r = 0.7, p < 0.05), initial pain intensity (r = 0.5, p < 0.05), and subjective report of improvement (r = 0.7, p < 0.01). Adherence did not correlate with the type of LBP, patient occupation, experience or nationality of the physiotherapist.

Conclusion: This study reveals an alarming level of non-adherence to physiotherapy among patients with LBP. It remains unclear as to what level of adherence is required to achieve beneficial effect of treatment. It is quite evident however, that early withdrawal from treatment would not allow the therapeutic benefits of the treatment to be realized. Future research should be directed toward developing strategies to improve adherence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance* / psychology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities* / psychology
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / methods*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sex Factors