The Role of Psychologically Informed Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Pain


Purpose of Review

Psychologically informed physical therapy (PIPT) addresses physical and psychosocial factors, by integrating cognitive-behavioral techniques into conventional physical therapy. This review presents findings from randomized controlled trials to understand the benefits of PIPT and training needed to deliver PIPT programs.

Recent Findings

Pain coping strategies and exercise were effective for improving physical function in the short term for patients with knee pain; however, long-term clinical benefit depends on the comparison group. Conflicting findings were found in patients with neck pain. However, evidence supports the effectiveness of PIPT for patients with low back pain, particularly those with chronic pain.


PIPT, through one-on-one, group, and telephone formats, can achieve positive improvement in clinical outcomes. Graded activity, goal setting, and cognitive-restructuring are common components. Stratifying patients and applying targeted PIPT may improve treatment effectiveness. Future research should focus on replicating PIPT in clinical practice and understanding the cost-effectiveness of different delivery platforms.

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The statements in this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), its Board of Governors or Methodology Committee.


Research reported in this publication was partially funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award (CER-1306-01970).

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Correspondence to Kristin R. Archer.

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Conflict of Interest

Kristin R. Archer has served as a consultant for Pacira and has had travel/accomodation expenses covered or reimbursed by APTA.

Rogelio A. Coronado and Stephen T. Wegener declare that they have no competing interests.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation

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Archer, K.R., Coronado, R.A. & Wegener, S.T. The Role of Psychologically Informed Physical Therapy for Musculoskeletal Pain. Curr Phys Med Rehabil Rep 6, 15–25 (2018).

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  • Biopsychosocial
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Pain management
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological