Physical Therapy in Pediatric and Young Adult Patients With Sickle Cell Disease: Assessing Potential Benefits and Barriers

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2020 Nov;42(8):463-466. doi: 10.1097/MPH.0000000000001888.


Background: Despite advances in the treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD) in pediatric and young adult patients, pain remains a significant cause of disease-related morbidity. Physical therapy has been shown to be useful for the treatment of pain in young patients with chronic illnesses, however, limited data exists regarding potential benefits of physical therapy in patients with SCD.

Materials and methods: We conducted a web-based survey of health care providers and support staff in the New England area to identify potential benefits of and barriers to outpatient physical therapy in this patient population.

Results: Nearly 92% of survey participants felt that physical therapy had the potential to be beneficial in pediatric and young adult patients with SCD. A majority of physicians reported having referred patients with SCD for physical therapy. Perceived potential benefits included improved functional mobility, improved chronic pain symptoms, decreased opiate use, improved mood symptoms, improved acute pain symptoms, and improved adherence with medications and clinic visits. Significant perceived barriers identified included lack of transportation, time constraints, patient lack of understanding, and difficulty with insurance coverage.

Conclusions: Health care providers have a positive view of the use of physical therapy in the management of this patient population. Significant barriers exist which need to be addressed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Young Adult