Outcomes of a 5-day physiotherapy programme for functional (psychogenic) motor disorders

J Neurol. 2015 Mar;262(3):674-81. doi: 10.1007/s00415-014-7631-1. Epub 2015 Jan 4.


Patients with functional motor disorder (FMD) are commonly seen by physiotherapists and there is growing evidence to support a physical rehabilitation approach. There are, however, few descriptions in the literature of the content of successful physiotherapy treatment. This prospective cohort study reports the practicalities and outcomes of a pilot 5-day physiotherapy programme. Patients were referred from a specialist movement disorders clinic. The treatment consisted of education and movement retraining, with a long-term self-management focus. Education and movement retraining was based on a pathophysiological model for FMD that stresses the importance of self-focussed attention and illness belief. Patients were assessed at baseline, end of treatment and 3-month follow-up. 47 patients completed the programme, mean symptom duration was 5.5 years, 64 % were unemployed due to ill health. At the end of treatment, 65 % rated their symptoms as "very much improved" or "much improved", this reduced to 55 % at 3 months. At follow-up, there was a significant improvement in physical domains of the SF-36, Berg Balance Scale and 10 Metre Timed Walk. Measures of mental health did not change. This prospective cohort study adds to the growing evidence that supports the use of specialist physiotherapy treatment for FMD. Improvements here were made despite the cohort having characteristics associated with poor prognosis. We argue that specific treatment techniques are important and have the potential to improve physical function, quality of life and may prove to be a cost-effective treatment for selected patients with FMD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement Disorders / psychology*
  • Movement Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult