Phys Ther. 1997 Feb; 77(2): 145-54.
Physical therapy treatment choices for musculoskeletal impairments.
Sargent College of Allied Health Professions, Boston University, MA 02215, USA. [email protected]
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The primary goal of this investigation was to describe outpatient physical therapy treatments provided to patients with lumbar, cervical, or knee impairments. SUBJECTS: Patients in this analysis received outpatient physical therapy for a primary orthopedic complaint during July 1993 through June 1994 from one of 68 practices participating in the Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes database. Data were available on 2,598 completed physical therapy episodes of care provided by 141 therapists. METHODS: At each patient's discharge, the primary physical therapist gave information on the treatments provided to each patient during the initial, middle, and final thirds of the episode of therapy as well as information on primary source of reimbursement. Patients provided information on the date of onset of their symptoms or surgery. RESULTS: These outpatient physical therapy episodes of care were characterized by a diverse array of modalities, exercises, and manual therapy treatments. Treatment choices varied by type of impairment and across thirds of the episode. Fee-for-service versus managed care payment arrangements were associated with increased use of devices, therapeutic massage, strengthening, and endurance exercises. CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION: The study's findings revealed that although physical agents were frequently used in physical therapy episodes of care, they were applied along with exercise and manual therapy interventions. Future research should relate specific treatments to variation in patient outcomes following physical therapy.