J.McVeigh-1,2, S.Archer-1, D.A.Hurley-3, J.R.Basford-4, G.D.Baxter-1.

1: Rehabilitation Sciences Research Group, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, Physiotherapy Department. 2: Royal Hospitals Trust, Belfast, Northern Ireland.  3: School of Physiotherapy, University College Dublin, Ireland. 4: Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA.


Objective. Patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) are often managed by physiotherapists, yet the nature of physiotherapy interventions and how well these reflect current evidence is unclear. The aim of this study was to identify physiotherapeutic management of patients with FMS in Northern Ireland.

Design. Following ethical approval, a self-completed postal questionnaire was distributed to a sample of physiotherapists working in outpatient settings in Northern Ireland (n=106). Information was sought regarding the aims of treatment, assessment and treatment strategies, physiotherapists' clinical experience, and training in FMS. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse data.

Results. A response rate of 71% (n=75) was achieved that reflected various practice settings i.e. hospital outpatients (n=36; 48%), community outpatients (n=26; 35%) and private practice (n=13; 17%). FMS patients featured in the caseloads of all respondents and the most common source of referral was "General Practitioner" (58.7%). The most important reported goal of treatment was to ‘increase daily function’ (n=24; 32%). Exercise (n=44; 58.7%) and hydrotherapy (n=12; 16%) were the most common treatment approaches, although a range of other interventions were also used. It was noteworthy that 45.3% (n=34) of respondents stated they did not believe they could adequately assess patients with FMS and 41.3% (n=31) reported that they had no formal training in the management of FMS. Private practitioners were significantly (p=0.05) more likely to believe physiotherapy was beneficial for patients with FMS than their NHS counterparts.

Conclusions. Physiotherapy treatments for FMS in Northern Ireland are consistent with current evidence. However practice varies and physiotherapists are uncomfortable with their level of FMS training and experience.

This study was part funded by Fibromyalgia Support N. Ireland

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