Physical therapists should integrate illness perceptions in their assessment in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain; a qualitative analysis

Man Ther. 2014 Jun;19(3):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2013.11.006. Epub 2013 Nov 23.


In the past decade, scientific evidence has shown that the biomedical model falls short in the treatment of patients with musculoskeletal pain. To understand musculoskeletal pain and a patient's health behavior and beliefs, physical therapists should assess the illness perceptions of their patients. In this quantitative study, we audiotaped the assessments of 19 primary care physical therapists on 27 patients and analyzed if and how illness perceptions were assessed. The Common Sense Model was used as the theoretical framework. We conclude that some of the domains of the Common Sense Model were frequently asked for (identity, causes and consequences), while others (timeline, treatment control, coherence, emotional representation) were used less frequently or seldom mentioned. The overall impression was that the assessments of the physical therapists were still bio-medically oriented in these patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Keywords: Illness perceptions; Musculoskeletal pain; Qualitative study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chronic Pain
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations / methods*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / diagnosis
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / psychology*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Perception
  • Physical Therapists / psychology*
  • Professional Competence
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult