Specifying current physical therapy practice for paediatric trials: A survey of UK physical therapists

Catherine J. Duff*, Niina Kolehmainen, Jennifer McAnuff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advancing physical therapy interventions for children and young people is a high research priority. This includes research to describe and specify the control condition, typically ‘current care’, for effectiveness trials.

This paper aims to identify physical therapy outcomes commonly targeted, and intervention techniques and approaches commonly used, by physiotherapists working with children (aged 2–19 years) with mobility limitations in the United Kingdom.

A cross-sectional survey. Participants were recruited through the interactive Chartered Society of Physiotherapy members-only online discussion forum, the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists, direct emails and snowball sampling within the authors' professional networks and Twitter. Data were collected using a structured online questionnaire and analysed using descriptive statistics.

We received 146 responses, 95/146 (65.1%) of which were fully complete. Therapists reported targeting 367 unique outcome constructs, of which 193 (52.6%) mapped onto activities and participation (e.g. moving around using equipment, maintaining body position and walking), 158 (43.1%) on body functions (e.g. muscle strength, joint mobility and gait functions), 11 (3.0%) on body structure (e.g. muscle length) and 3 (0.8%) on environmental factors (e.g. access home environment, access school environment and family confidence). The most commonly used interventions related to postural management (115/133 of respondents, 86.4%) and exercise therapy (116/137, 84.67%) and included techniques such as ‘use equipment’ (118/137, 86.1%), ‘instruct how to do something’ (117/137, 85.4%), ‘practice’ (105/137, 76.6%) and ‘stretch’ (99/137, 72.3%).

In designing trials, current care can be described as a combination of biomechanical and physiological techniques and approaches targeted at body functions and through that to activity and participation. Although some environmental behaviour change techniques and strategies were reported, the explicit use of these in current care appears limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-804
Number of pages11
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number6
Early online date22 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


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