Integrating culturally informed approaches into physiotherapy assessment and treatment of chronic pain: A pilot randomised controlled trial

Bernadette Brady, Irena Veljanova, Siobhan Schabrun, Lucinda Chipchase

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23 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective: To evaluate patient engagement with, and the feasibility of, a novel, culturally adapted physiotherapy pain management approach. Design: A participant-blinded and assessor-blinded pilot randomised controlled trial. Setting: Outpatient physiotherapy departments at two public hospitals and one district pain clinic. Participants: Adults (n=48) with chronic musculoskeletal pain (daily pain >3 months), who self-identified as Mandaean, Assyrian or Vietnamese, were randomised to one of two physiotherapy treatment conditions. Interventions: 24 participants underwent combined group and individualised treatment described as 'culturally adapted physiotherapy', while 24 underwent evidence-informed 'usual physiotherapy care'. Both treatment arms consisted of up to 10 sessions over a 3-month period. Outcome Measures: Patient engagement was measured via participant attendance, adherence and satisfaction data. Secondary outcomes included clinical measures of pain severity, interference and suffering, physical function and negative emotional state. Results: 96% of participants undergoing culturally adapted physiotherapy completed treatment, compared with 58% of the usual physiotherapy group. For the culturally adapted group attendance (87%±18%) and adherence (68%±32%) were higher relative to usual care (68%±32% and 55%±43%). Satisfaction was similar for the culturally adapted (82.7%±13.4%) and usual care (79.3±17.3) groups. For secondary outcomes, a significant between-group effect for pain-related suffering in favour of the culturally adapted group was observed with a medium effect size (partial η2 0.086, mean 3.56, 95% CI 0.11 to 7), while results for pain severity, interference, physical function and negative emotional state were similar. Conclusions: Aligning treatment with the beliefs and values of culturally and linguistically diverse communities enhances patient engagement with physiotherapy. These results support the feasibility of a larger, multisite trial to determine if improved engagement with culturally adapted physiotherapy translates to improved clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere021999
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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