The authors aimed to understand how physical therapists used practice guidelines to manage patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) in Australia.
This study used a concurrent triangulation mixed-method approach to explore how physical therapists applied clinical guidelines when managing patients with knee OA in an outpatient setting via completion of a semi-structured interview. Interviews were thematically analyzed by 2 investigators using an inductive approach. Themes were then triangulated to the results of an audit that evaluated the level of adherence to respective areas in the clinical guidelines among physical therapists at the participating site.
One main theme and 3 subthemes were identified from 18 participants: (1) physical therapists were most confident in applying guidelines to improving range of movement and strength; (2) lack of knowledge in prescription of aerobic exercise, weight, and pain management; (3) pain is a bigger barrier in areas where knowledge is lacking; and (4) lack of clarity around the scope of practice. Themes converged with the reported level of adherence to guidelines.
Physical therapists commonly include range of movement and muscle strength exercises when managing people with knee OA. However, they were less confident in prescribing aerobic exercise and recommending weight and pain management strategies.
Apart from the need to upskill physical therapists in the aforementioned areas of clinical practice, the role of a physical therapist in the management of people with knee OA requires further clarification.