Background Thirteen percent of the Irish population is affected by chronic pain (CP)1. The 2001 Primary Health Care Strategy established local primary care services, which aims to deliver 90-95% of all health and social care needs2. Chartered physiotherapists are core members of the primary care team (PCT) and frequently manage patients with chronic pain.
Objectives To establish current management strategies employed by primary care physiotherapists and services available for patients with CP in the Republic of Ireland (ROI)
Methods A questionnaire was distributed to all primary care physiotherapists (n=227) in the ROI. Demographic data, current assessment and management strategies utilised and level of physiotherapy-led chronic pain services available within their PCT were requested.
Results Response rate was 76.1% (n=174). Three quarters of posts (77%, n=134) were senior level. Over 50% of PCPs indicated that adult CP patients comprised 41-80% of their total caseload. Only 37% (n=64) of primary care physiotherapists provide physiotherapy services other than one-to-one sessions. Of these 52% (n=33) offer group exercise classes, 22% (n=14) offer chronic pain education classes, and 8% (n=5) offer informal elements of a pain management programme. Treatment goals and discharge criteria exhibit significant disparities: limited use of outcome measures, in particular those which assess psychological well-being (24.5%) and quality of life measures (20%). Physiotherapists’ level of postgraduate education did not have a significant impact on patient management (p>0.05).
Conclusions Primary care physiotherapists’ assessment and management strategies do not conform to international guideline recommendations. Physiotherapy services (other than one-to-one sessions) are limited and should be expanded in line with international best practice.
Breivik, HCollett B, Ventafridda V, Cohen R, Gallacher D (2006) Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. European Journal of Pain, 10: 287-333
Department of Health and Children (2001) Primary Care: A New Direction. http://www.dohc.ie/publications/pdf/primcare.pdf
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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