Duration of symptoms and outcomes of treatment in musculoskeletal patients in private practice

Shemane Murtagh, Elizabeth Bryant, George Olivier

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Purpose: Limited research exists on the possible association between duration of symptoms prior to commencing treatment and reported outcomes in musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect that duration of symptoms (DOS) has on the outcomes of patients attending physiotherapy treatment for a MSK condition in a private physiotherapy practice. Comparisons were made between patients who had their symptoms for 6 weeks or less versus patients who had had their symptoms for more than 6 weeks. Method: As part of the larger Physio First Data for Impact project an online Standardised Data Collection (SDC) system was used to collect data from patients attending physiotherapy in private clinics in the UK with an MSK condition. 540 physiotherapists registered for the project. Practitioners were asked to input data on all new MSK patients entering their practice. A total of 24,590 patient data sets were included in the analyses. A range of outcomes were examined including the outcome of referral, the change in Functional/Physical/Subjective (FPS) score and the number of treatments attended. Patients: 52.9% were female, and the average age was 51.8 years (SD= 17.7). Approximately half of patients (51.7%) had reported DOS of ≤ 6 weeks. Patients presented with a range of MSK diagnoses. The outcome of referral for the majority of patients was a regular discharge (61.2%) and a small minority of patients were referred to a GP/Consultant (8.6%). On average, patients experienced a 3.04 point improvement (SD= 2.06) in FPS scores (on a 10-point scale) following treatment. The number of treatments ranged from 1 to 10 (Mdn=3). Data analysis: Chi-square tests were performed to examine group differences in the outcome of referral. T-tests were used to examine group differences in FPS change scores. Mann-Whitney tests were performed to examine the differences relating to number of treatments attended. Results: Patients with DOS ≤ 6 weeks were 17% more likely to have a regular discharge (X2(1,n = 24,411) = 155.35, p<.01; RR = 1.17, CI=1.14-1.19, p<.01) and 35% less likely to be referred to a GP or consultant (X2(1, n = 2,411) = 100.34, p<.01, phi =.064;R = 0.65, CI=.60-.71, p<.01). Patients with DOS ≤ 6 weeks attended less treatment sessions than patients with DOS > 6 weeks (z = 15.95, p < .01, r =.102). Although improvements in FPS scores were observed in both groups, patients with DOS ≤ 6 weeks had significant higher FPS change scores than patients with DOS > 6 weeks (t = 16.08, p<.01, D= 0.21). Conclusions: Patients who had experienced their symptoms for six weeks or less required less treatment and experienced better outcomes. Encouraging patients to seek treatment sooner may be a key factor in optimising the treatment of MSK patients. Implications: Where possible, patients should be encouraged to attend treatment within the first six weeks of experiencing their symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018
EventPhysiotherapy UK Conference - ICC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Oct 201820 Oct 2018


ConferencePhysiotherapy UK Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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