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Study Spotlight: Physical Therapists Are Essential to Support Patients Self-Managing Musculoskeletal Disorders

Physical therapists can empower patients with chronic musculoskeletal disorders by supporting effective self-management.

Persistent musculoskeletal disorders—including spine-related neck and back problems—are painful to patients and costly for workers’ compensation payers and society as a whole. Among occupationally active adults, musculoskeletal disorders are the main causes of disability. Often work related, they can lead to lost time and reduced productivity.

Biomechanical and psychosocial risk factors often influence musculoskeletal disorders. That’s why, as an article published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy argues, a person-centered approach focusing on self-management strategies is so essential to helping patients restore and maintain function.

In the paper, Barlow et al outline the physical therapist’s (PT) role in supporting effective self-management. The authors define self-management as “the ability to manage the symptoms, treatment, physical and psychosocial consequences and lifestyle changes inherent in living with a chronic condition.”

As experts in musculoskeletal disorders, PTs are ideally positioned to provide self-management support that focuses on teaching skills that patients can use to manage these conditions on their own. In this approach, PTs help patients understand their conditions and the biomechanics of them while promoting behavioral changes and active lifestyles.

PTs help patients develop a patient-preferred approach to physical therapy exercises to improve function and strength, reduce pain, and increase well-being. The goal is for the patients to develop their own strategies to reducing their symptoms. Techniques may involve exercise, pain management, cognitive behavioral therapy, shared decision-making, acceptance, problem-solving and/or mindfulness, and other techniques. It’s all very individualized.

With self-management, PTs provide support as the patients set goals, recognize barriers to achieving them and learn how to measure the effectiveness of their own self-management. This provider-patient partnership is an essential component of this approach.

As the leading provider of managed physical medicine for the workers’ compensation industry, MedRisk stays abreast of industry trends such as this. By so doing, we continue providing our carriers, TPAs and employers access to the best national network of credentialed PTs in the workers’ compensation industry.

To read the full article, click here.

Promoting the Use of Self-management Strategies for People with Persistent Musculoskeletal Disorders: The Role of Physical Therapists
Nathan Hutting, Vernerian Johnston, J. Bart Steal, and Yvonne F. Hearkens
Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2019 49:4, 212-215