The aim of this study was to assess the effect of an intervention designed to enhance physiotherapists’ communication skills on chronic low back pain patients’ adherence to home-based rehabilitation recommendations.
Patients received publicly funded individual physiotherapy care. In the control arm, care was delivered by a physiotherapist who had completed a 1-hour workshop on evidence-based chronic low back pain management. Patients in the experimental arm received care from physiotherapists who had also completed 8 hours of communications skills training.
Linear mixed model analysis showed the experimental arm patients’ ratings of adherence were greater than controls (overall mean difference = .41 [95% CI = .10 to .72, d = .28, p = .01). Moderation analyses showed that men, regardless of intervention, showed improvements in pain-related function over time. Only women in the experimental condition showed functional improvements; female controls saw little change in function over time. The CONNECT intervention did not influence patients’ pain, regardless of their sex.
Communication skills training for physiotherapists had short-term positive effects on patient adherence. This training may provide a motivational basis for behavior change and could be a useful component in complex interventions to promote adherence. Communication skills training may also improve some clinical outcomes for women, but not men.