An exploration of clinical variables that enhance therapeutic alliance in patients seeking care for musculoskeletal pain: A mixed methods approach.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

INTRODUCTION/OBJECTIVES: Therapeutic alliance (TA) is an integral part of building a patient and clinician relationship. TA begins at the initial encounter; however, the specific TA behavioural practices that are most impactful and linked to pain reduction and improved function remain unclear. The primary objective of this study was to explore physical therapist behaviours and interactions during the initial physical therapy evaluation and how they related to the patient's perception of TA. A secondary objective was to explore the relationship between TA, pain intensity, and function. METHODS: A mixed methods study was conducted. Pain intensity, TA and self-reported function were assessed at three time points. Spearman's Rho (ρ) was used to quantify if there was an association between increased TA and function and reduced pain intensity, while a checklist of TA themes and behavioural practices was used for the qualitative analysis. RESULTS: There was a statistically significant negative correlation between patient-perceived TA and pain intensity immediately after the initial evaluation (ρ = -0.39 [p = 0.048]). Behavioural practices associated with higher TA included information gathering, pausing to listen, using humour and transitions, and use of clarifying questions. Behavioural practices associated with patient-perceived lower TA interactions were lack of touch, the absence of pain neuroscience education, and not restating what the patient said during the interview. CONCLUSION: This study highlights a relationship between TA and reduction of pain intensity after the initial evaluation and identifies key behavioural practices that could positively and negatively impact TA during the clinical encounter.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Myers, C; Thompson, G; Hughey, L; Young, JL; Rhon, DI; Rentmeester, C

Published Date

  • September 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 20 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 577 - 592

PubMed ID

  • 34984781

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1557-0681

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/msc.1615


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England