Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)

Department

Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Renee Mabey

Keywords

Physical Therapy Modalities

Abstract

Background and Purpose. It is desirable that physical therapy programs update their curricula according to the clinical application patterns of physical agents and therapeutic modalities in physical therapy. The purpose of this study is to 1) determine the frequency of use of physical agents and therapeutic modalities, 2) determine the factors in deciding which physical agent or therapeutic modality to use, 3) determine the educational coverage of each physical agent or therapeutic modality and identify strengths and weaknesses of the respondents training, and 4) compare the frequency of use with the current training in physical agents and therapeutic modalities at the University of North Dakota's physical therapy program (UND-PT).

Subjects and Methods. A survey was sent to 690 physical therapists at 230 clinical sites in the United States affiliated with the UNO-PT. It consisted of seven sections: thermomodalities, electromodalities, mechanical agents, hydromodalities, educational coverage, open-ended questions, and demographic information. The data were analyzed and the results are depicted within this study.

Results. The three most frequently used physical agents or therapeutic modalities were cold packs (x = 19 ± 23 times/week), ultrasound (x = 17 ± 23 times/week), and hot packs (x = 15 ± 23 times/week). Primary practice setting influenced the choice of the three most used modalities, with a markedly greater use of physical agents and therapeutic modalities in the outpatient orthopedics and sports medicine settings. The three most important factors in deciding which physical agent or therapeutic modality to use were the purpose/availability/ease of application of the physical agent or therapeutic modality (18%), patient signs and symptoms (16%), and effectiveness (15%). The three most frequent strengths of the respondents' educational coverage were the amount of lab time spent practicing to use the modalities (32%), depth of coverage (22%), and variety of coverage (20%). The four most frequently perceived limitations of educational coverage were practice time (25%), depth of coverage for the entire course (13%), equipment concerns (13%), and a limited emphasis on research (13%). We consider the coverage of physical agents and therapeutic modalities at UND-PT to be consistent with the results of our survey.

Discussion and Conclusion. A sparse amount of research on this topic exists, limiting comparisons between studies, which could account for many differences. These differences existed in geographical regions, time span between studies, and the narrow scope of clinical settings and modalities studied. Currently, reimbursement issues, evidence-based practice, and clinical effectiveness influence the frequency of use of physical agents and therapeutic modalities. Further research is needed on the use of physical agents and therapeutic modalities across practice settings and clinical experience. Further research can also be studied on a broader population base.

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