Exercise prescription for non-specific chronic low back pain (NSCLBP): a qualitative study of patients’ experiences of involvement in decision making

Rob Stenner, Annette Swinkels, Theresa Mitchell, Shea Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Background The culture of current clinical practice calls for collaboration between therapists and patients, sharing power and responsibility. This paper reports on the findings of a qualitative study of exercise prescription for patients with NSCLBP, taking into account issues such as decision making and how this accords with patient preferences and experiences. Objective To understand the treatment decision making experiences, information and decision support needs of patients with NSCLBP who have been offered exercise as part of their management plan. Design A qualitative study using a philosophical hermeneutic approach. Methods Semi-structured interviews with eight patients (including use of brief patient vignettes) was undertaken to explore their personal experiences of receiving exercise as part of the management of their NSCLBP, and their involvement in decisions regarding their care. Findings The findings provide a detailed insight into patients’ perceptions and experiences of receiving exercise-based management strategies. Four themes were formed from the texts: (1) patients’ expectations and patients’ needs are not synonymous, (2) information is necessary but often not sufficient, (3) not all decisions need to be shared, and (4) wanting to be treated as an individual. Conclusions Shared decision making did not appear to happen in physiotherapy clinical practice, but equally may not be what every patient wants. The overall feeling of the patients was that the therapist was dominant in structuring the interactions, leaving the patients feeling disempowered to question and contribute to the decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-344
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiotherapy (United Kingdom)
Issue number4
Early online date9 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Physiotherapy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Physiotherapy, 102:4 (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.physio.2015.08.005

© 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Back pain
  • Exercise
  • Patient-centred care
  • Shared decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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