BACKGROUND: Community-based musculoskeletal physiotherapy is used to improve function and health related quality of life (HRQoL). The purpose of this retrospective, multi-centre observational study was to determine the association between community-based physiotherapy management for musculoskeletal disorders and changes in HRQoL.
METHODS: Four thousand one hundred twelve patients' data were included in the study. Patients were included if they received a single period of treatment for a musculoskeletal injury or disorder. Patients were only included if they were being treated for a single morbidity. Patients received standard physiotherapy appropriate to their specific disorder, which could include health education/advice, exercise therapy, manual therapy, taping, soft tissue techniques, electrotherapy and/or acupuncture. Health related quality of life was assessed using the EQ-5D index.
RESULTS: EQ-5D improved by 0.203 across all patients (d = 1.10). When grouped by anatomical site of symptom, the largest increases in EQ-5D was in foot pain (0.233; d = 1.29) and lumbar pain (0.231; d = 1.13). Improvements in EQ-5D greater than the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) were seen in 68.4% of all patients. The highest proportion of patients with positive responses to treatment were in ankle pain (74.2%) and thoracic pain (73.4%). The hand (40.5%), elbow (34.7%), and hip (33.9%) showed the greatest proportion of patients that did not respond to treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Community-based musculoskeletal physiotherapy is associated with improved health related quality of life. A randomised controlled trial is needed to determine any causal relationship between community-based physiotherapy and health related quality of life improvements.