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Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physiotherapy management of musculoskeletal conditions: a professional minefield?

Authors Saravana Kumar, Karen Grimmer

Published 15 April 2005 Volume 2005:1(1) Pages 69—76

Saravana Kumar, Karen Grimmer

Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia, SA, Australia

Abstract: In Australia, physiotherapy is a primary contact profession when practiced in private ambulatory settings. Primary contact means that physiotherapists take responsibility for diagnosis, decisions on interventions, appropriate ongoing management, and costs related to benefits. For most physiotherapists, the most common clinical presentations relate to symptoms from musculoskeletal conditions. There is considerable research evidence for many “physiotherapy” techniques in the management of musculoskeletal symptoms. As part of these management strategies, some physiotherapists may use nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as an adjunct to treatment. Physiotherapists do not have the training or the legislative powers to prescribe NSAIDs. However, they can recommend that patients seek advice about appropriate adjunct NSAIDs from pharmacists and/or medical practitioners. The roles and responsibilities of key health providers in this area appear to be well defined in terms of minimizing medication misadventure and optimizing patient health outcomes. A recent survey of physiotherapist behaviors and practices, however, identified a number of “gray” areas that could confront unwary physiotherapists, or pose dilemmas for those without the support of medical/pharmacist colleagues. These gray areas relate to the adjunct use of topical NSAIDs in physiotherapy management and making recommendations for the use of oral NSAIDs. This paper reports on qualitative data that highlights the dilemmas confronting physiotherapists.

Keywords: physiotherapy, antiinflammatory agents, legal and ethical issues

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