FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Prescription of Physical Activity

Written by Selena Horner | Mar 31, 2017 10:00:00 AM


Although this study focused on individuals who had persistent pain, my mind wanders to the big picture: all individuals who need to increase physical activity.

From my experience, it does take time and education about physical activity and what a person who has persistent pain is willing to attempt. What physical activity works in their life? What does the person want to do in the future - which ranges from vacations to tolerating a day without increased pain or fatigue. I don't perceive that the majority want to continue to experience pain, but have fear about how to improve their situation via physical activity.

The conclusion made me chuckle a bit... the idea of a physiotherapist came into the picture, yet the majority didn't know the difference between physical activity prescription and physiotherapy.

Here's a quick view of the abstract. 

Patients with chronic pain may need extra support when prescribed physical activity in primary care: a qualitative study.




Physical activity plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain, but chronic pain may implicate a poor rehabilitation outcome. The concept of physical activity on prescription (PAP) is a therapeutic option for various diseases, but there is a lack of knowledge about how patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain experience receiving the prescription.


The objective of this study was to describe the experiences of and thoughts about receiving a prescription for physical activity of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain.


Interviews analysed using qualitative content analysis with an inductive approach.


Three primary healthcare centres in a mixed rural and suburban area in the vicinity of a large city in western Sweden.


Fifteen individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain.


Four categories were identified with the overarching theme "Physical activity in chronic pain requires extra support". There were several barriers for increasing activity level and these patients suffered from the additional burden of pain. The categories were: "Important to identify needs", "Barriers and facilitators for physical activity", "Perceptions of PAP vary" and "Effects found of receiving PAP".


Despite the many positive experiences of receiving PAP, patients described confusion about the role and execution of PAP. Chronic pain is an additional barrier for increasing activity level, and it is crucial to consider these patients' circumstances. This study suggests that patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain have a greater need for information and extra support to overcome existing barriers, before or when physical activity is prescribed. Key Points Physical activity is important for prevention and treatment of chronic pain and has earlier been shown to be increased by "physical activity on prescription". Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain required the prescriber to listen and take the patients' circumstances, context, symptoms and current activity level into account to a greater extent. Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain experienced more obstacles to increase their physical activity and, therefore, had a greater need for individually tailored information and support when prescribed physical activity. Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain found it difficult to distinguish between physical activity on prescription and physiotherapy and perceived that also the physicians could not tell the difference.

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2017 Mar;35(1):64-74. doi: 10.1080/02813432.2017.1288815. Epub 2017 Mar 3.