Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Russell French

Committee Members

Edward T. Howley, John A. Bauer, J. May


The purpose of this study was to identify the content and design of physical therapy patient education programs recommended in the literature and to assess the consistency between those recommendations, the recommendations of physical therapy educators and the practices of physical therapist clinicians. A patient example was used as the focus of the patient education program. The patient example was classified as having a low back derangement syndrome.

A national sample of 600 physical therapists was surveyed, and physical therapy educators from 20 professional education programs were interviewed. The surveys yielded data from 264 physical therapists, and 31 educators in physical therapy professional education programs were interviewed.

The majority of research findings are equivocal or based on the management of nonspecific low back pain, and professional practice standards are consensus-based. As a result, definitive conclusions cannot not be drawn regarding an optimum patient education program for a low back derangement syndrome, and the major contribution of this study is a description of current practices.

Although research support is mixed, a few patient education topics and teaching methods are suggested by all three data sources (literature, practicing physical therapists and physical therapy educators). These topics include education in the current condition and its risk factors; activity modification; posture/positioning; and patient-specific directional preference exercises. Teaching methods include individual training, verbal instruction and verbal instruction in conjunction with other methods.

Principles from adult education may prove beneficial to the patient education program. Among these is the development of a collaborative relationship between the physical therapist and the patient/client. Also important is to dispel patients' fears and misconceptions, and to promote self-care of the low back condition.

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