n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - Physiotherapists' knowledge of pain : a cross-sectional correlational study of members of the South African Sports and Orthopaedic Manipulative Special Interest Groups : original research

Volume 25, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1015-5163
  • E-ISSN: 2078-516X



Pain is the most common complaint for which patients seek the help of a physiotherapist. Furthermore, pain has been identified as the fifth vital sign, indicating the attention with which physiotherapists should be assessing pain. Previous studies have found deficits in pain knowledge among healthcare providers. Poor knowledge about pain is recognised to lead to poor assessment ability, and subsequently, to poor pain management.

To investigate the pain knowledge of sports and orthopaedic manipulative physiotherapists in South Africa (SA).
Data were collected online by means of a demographic questionnaire and Unruh's Revised Pain Knowledge and Attitudes Questionnaire (RPKAQ). Participants were members of the Sports Physiotherapy Group and Orthopaedic Manipulative Physiotherapy Group of the South African Society of Physiotherapy.
The mean score for the RPKAQ was 65.5% (standard deviation (SD) ± 8.6). Only 14.45% of the physiotherapists scored ≥75%. Lowest scores were obtained for the 'assessment and measurement of pain' (47.6%; SD ± 15.6) and 'developmental changes in pain perception' (58.7%; SD ± 20.8) sections of the RPKAQ, while the highest mean score was obtained for the 'physiological basis of pain' section (76.8%; SD ± 14.6). Gender, ethnicity (defined by home language), academic training and clinical experience did not contribute significantly to overall pain knowledge.
There is an inadequate level of pain knowledge among members of the sports and orthopaedic manipulative physiotherapy groups in SA, particularly in the areas of the assessment and measurement of pain, and developmental changes in pain perception.

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