The role of Philosophical Hermeneutics in contributing to an understanding of physiotherapy practice: a reflexive illustration

Rob Stenner, Theresa Mitchell, Shea Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
161 Downloads (Pure)


This paper provides an overview of Philosophical Hermeneutics based on the work of German philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer. The concepts of the ‘hermeneutic circle’ as a vehicle for interpretation, management of the researcher's pre-understandings (prejudices), and the ‘fusion of horizons’ are introduced and illustrated by examples from the first author's research, before considering how rigour can be achieved in this type of research. The actual research study which aimed to explore how shared decision making and patient partnership are addressed by physiotherapists in the process of exercise prescription for patients with low back pain (LBP) is not the focus of this paper. However short descriptions of the study are used to explore issues surrounding a hermeneutic inquiry. For physiotherapists interested in research or considering undertaking an interpretive phenomenological inquiry, this theoretical discussion paper explores how Gadamer's philosophy offers a credible framework for undertaking such research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-334
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiotherapy (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
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, 103:3 (2017) DOI: 10.1016/

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Interpretive phenomenology
  • Philosophical Hermeneutics
  • Physiotherapy
  • Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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