The attitudes and beliefs of physiotherapy students to chronic back pain

Jane Latimer, Christopher Maher, Kathryn Refshauge
Clinical Journal of Pain 2004, 20 (1): 45-50

OBJECTIVES: To describe the attitudes and beliefs of physiotherapy students to chronic low back pain (LBP) and to investigate whether these attitudes change following exposure to a teaching module on chronic back pain. Also, to investigate the effect of current or previous LBP on student attitudes and beliefs.

METHODS: Six hundred and eighteen third and fourth year undergraduate physiotherapy students completed the Health Care Providers' Pain and Impairment Relationship Scale (HC-PAIRS), 305 of these completing a further scale following exposure to a specialized teaching module about chronic back pain. The scale contains 15 statements that attribute patients' impairment and disability to pain. The student marked on a Likert scale how strongly they agreed with each item, with possible scores varying from 15-105.

RESULTS: The mean HC-PAIRS scores for Year 3 physiotherapy students in 1998, 1999, and 2000 were 54.2 (SD = 8.7), 55 (SD = 9.4), and 50.9 (SD = 9.3) respectively. The mean HC-PAIRS score for Year 4 physiotherapy students in 1998 was 52 (SD = 8.9). There was no difference in HC-PAIRS scores between subjects with and without a history of LBP (HC-PAIRS score 50.5 vs. 50.0 P = 0.4). There was a significant difference between the before and after teaching scores for Year 3 students surveyed immediately following the teaching module (1998 Year 3 cohort, mean difference -6.6, 95% CI -8.6 to -4.5, 2000 Year 3 cohort, mean difference -7.7, 95% CI -10.9 to -4.6); however this result needs to be viewed with caution due to the number of students unable to be followed up.

DISCUSSION: These results suggest that the attitudes and beliefs of third year physiotherapy students not exposed to teaching are similar to those of community providers. There is no difference between students with and without a history of LBP.

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