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Reported practices related to, and capability to provide, first-line knee osteoarthritis treatments: a survey of 1064 Australian physical therapists

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Background: Physical therapists play a key role in providing first-line knee osteoarthritis treatments, including patient education and exercise therapy. Objectives: Describe Australian physical therapists’ awareness of guidelines; reported practices; and beliefs about capability, opportunity, motivation, and evidence. Methods: An online cross-sectional survey was completed by physical therapists prior to attending the Good Living with osteoArthritis from Denmark (GLA:D®) Australia training courses (March 2017 to December 2019). The survey instrument was developed by an expert panel and was informed by the Theoretical Domains Framework. Results: 1064 physical therapists from all Australian states and territories participated. 11% (n = 121) could name an accepted guideline, 98% agreed it was their job to deliver patient education and exercise therapy, and 92% agreed this would optimise outcomes. Most reported providing strength exercise (99%), written exercise instructions (95%), treatment goal discussion (88%), and physical activity advice (83%) all or most of the time. Fewer provided aerobic exercise (66%), neuromuscular exercise (54%), and weight management discussion (56%) all or most of the time. Approximately one quarter (23–24%) believed they did not have the skills, knowledge, or confidence to provide education and exercise therapy recommended by guidelines, and just 48% agreed they had been trained to do so. Conclusion: Australian physical therapists treating knee osteoarthritis typically provide strength-based home exercise with written instructions, alongside goal setting and physical activity advice. Just one in nine could name a guideline. Education and training activities are needed to support physical therapists to access, read and implement guidelines, especially for aerobic and neuromuscular exercise, and weight management.


Publication Date



Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy






(p. 854-863)





Rights Statement

© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier España, S.L.U. on behalf of Associação Brasileira de Pesquisa e Pós-Graduação em Fisioterapia. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (