Many physiotherapists lack preparedness to prescribe physical activity and exercise to people with musculoskeletal pain: A multi-national survey

Phys Ther Sport. 2021 May:49:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2021.02.002. Epub 2021 Feb 19.


Objectives: Determine physiotherapists' (i) awareness of physical activity, and exercise prescription guidelines; (ii) perceived role, knowledge, confidence, skills and training in prescribing and progressing aerobic exercise and resistance training to people with musculoskeletal pain; (iii) professional development preferences; and (iv) perceived influences of external factors on exercise prescription for people with musculoskeletal pain.

Design: Multi-national cross-sectional survey.

Methods: An open online survey was developed specifically for this study.

Results: 1,352 physiotherapists from 56 countries participated. The majority of respondents correctly stated physical activity guidelines for adults (60%) and children (53%), but only 37% correctly stated guidelines for older adults. Eleven percent and 16% could name an accepted guideline for aerobic exercise and resistance training, respectively. Most agreed their role included prescribing aerobic exercise (75%) and resistance training (89%). Fewer reported they had the confidence, training or skills to prescribe aerobic exercise (38-50%) and resistance training (49-70%). Workshops were the most preferred (44%) professional development option. Most respondents believed appointment scheduling and access to equipment and professional development (62-79%) affected their ability to prescribe effective exercise.

Conclusion: Many physiotherapists lack knowledge and training to provide physical activity advice, and to prescribe aerobic exercise and resistance training to people with musculoskeletal pain.

Keywords: Evidence; Exercise; Knowledge; Musculoskeletal pain; Physical therapy; Physiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapists / education*
  • Prescriptions
  • Professional Competence*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires