Approximately 50% of all Canadians are living with at least one chronic health condition. Many of these patients are receiving team-based primary health care, where they can benefit from accessing a wide range of providers, including physiotherapists, for management and prevention of future health problems.
Role of Physiotherapy in Chronic Disease
Research strongly supports the role of physiotherapists in the prevention, treatment and
management of chronic diseases, including hypertension, emphysema, Type 2 diabetes,
Parkinson’s, arthritis and obesity. Physiotherapy interventions, including exercise prescription,
facilitate patient participation in programs that enhance and maintain physical well-being which
has a significant impact on quality of life (QOL) and future use of health care services.
Impact on Patient Experience
Physiotherapy interventions for chronic disease prevention and management, including exercise
prescription and education, take into account the individual’s medical condition and needs.
Patients report that physiotherapy management of their chronic conditions results in:
• Decreased pain and shortness of breath, or dyspnea.
• Increased confidence and commitment to exercise, which positively impacts
• Enhanced social interaction, also improving QOL.
Impact on Population Health
Exercise is essential in the prevention, management and treatment of chronic diseases.
• Physiotherapy interventions target mobility and improve QOL for individuals with chronic
diseases and conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chronic heart failure and lymphedema
related to breast cancer.
• Physiotherapist- supervised inpatient exercise rehabilitation reduces physical impairment
and improves functional ability and exercise capacity in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
• Physiotherapy programs enhance and maintain physical well-being for those with
The Value of Physiotherapy
Chronic disease prevention programs that focus on exercise, education and self-management
strategies reduce future use of health care resources.
• Physiotherapy assessment and individualized exercise program strategies with telephone
follow-up reduces the number of emergency visits, and hospital emergency and health
• Physiotherapy management of chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis, alleviates wait times
for physician services by addressing pain and functional issues and reduces the need for
more costly surgical interventions.
• Patient self-management of chronic conditions is an efficient, effective, and sustainable use
of health care resources.
There is strong evidence that physiotherapy interventions, including exercise prescription and
self-management support, are effective in the prevention and management of chronic conditions.
© 2012 Canadian Physiotherapy Association. All rights reserved.