BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to explore physiotherapists' knowledge, attitude, and practice behavior in assessing and managing patients with non-specific, non-traumatic, acute- and subacute neck pain, with a focus on prognostic factors for chronification.
METHOD: A qualitative study using in-depth semi-structured interviews was conducted with 13 physiotherapists working in primary care. A purposive sampling method served to seek the broadest perspectives. The knowledge-attitude and practice framework was used as an analytic lens throughout the process. Textual data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis with an inductive approach and constant comparison.
RESULTS: Seven main themes emerged from the data; physiotherapists self-estimated knowledge and attitude, role clarity, therapeutic relationship, internal- and external barriers to practice behavior, physiotherapists' practice behaviors, and self-reflection. These findings are presented in an adjusted knowledge-attitude and practice behavior framework.
CONCLUSION: A complex relationship was found between a physiotherapist's knowledge about, attitude, and practice behavior concerning the diagnostic process and interventions for non-specific, non-traumatic, acute, and subacute neck pain. Overall, physiotherapists used a biopsychosocial view of patients with non-specific neck pain. Physiotherapists' practice behaviors was influenced by individual attitudes towards their professional role and therapeutic relationship with the patient, and individual knowledge and skills, personal routines and habits, the feeling of powerlessness to modify patients' external factors, and patients' lack of willingness to a biopsychosocial approach influenced physiotherapists' clinical decisions. In addition, we found self-reflection to have an essential role in developing self-estimated knowledge and change in attitude towards their therapeutic role and therapist-patient relationship.