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The #1 Barrier to Full Recovery from Injury

Published: 21 April 2022 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Physio Tips, Wellbeing

Non adherence to physio treatment plans is a major barrier to full recovery

If you’ve ever had a serious injury, you’re probably aware just how hard it is to stick to your treatment and recovery plan.

The first few days start off ok, but as your body starts to heal, the exercises tend to fall by the wayside!

Non adherence to physio hinders recovery

While we understand that you want to get back into action as soon as possible, and sometimes doing those important exercises can seem a bit monotonous - it’s paramount that you see your treatment plan right through to the end.

You’re not a quitter are you?

So just why do so many of us struggle to stick to the plan which will ultimately get us better quicker, and stronger for longer?

An injury causes a range of physical and psychological disabilities if not treated properly which can have long term effect on people’s lives.

The National Health Survey in 2007-2008 estimated that around 2.4 million Australians had a long term disability due to an injury.

The ability to function independently and without fear of re-injuring is essential for good quality of life, and it requires you completing all of your rehabilitation following an injury.

Patients who complete their plan have better outcomes

According to World Health Organisation “Adherent patients have better treatment outcomes than non-adherent ones”. 

If we consider an example of low back pain, which according to Monash University’s recent research, shows that it is the major contributor to disability in the world along with osteoarthritis. 

By following physiotherapy rehabilitation programs that include soft tissue work (releasing of tight muscles by different massage techniques), joint mobilisation and individualised therapeutic exercise regimens, both low back pain and osteoarthritis can be managed well to achieve optimal function and quality of life.

However, it requires patient adherence to clinic appointments, adherence to prescribed home exercise plan and adherence to advice.

What are musculoskeletal injuries and why follow your physiotherapy program?

According to the University of British Columbia, musculoskeletal injuries are those that affect muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, spinal discs and nerves.

These injuries occur from trauma, overexertion, faulty posture, repetitive use or due to age related changes such as, osteoarthritis, low back pain, and muscle strains such as hamstring in soccer, ligament injuries like ankle sprains in netball or basketball.

Barriers to injury recovery

All musculoskeletal injuries require adherence to physiotherapy treatments to improve outcomes, efficiency and reduce health care cost.

Three stages to recovery

To shed some more light on musculoskeletal injury, it goes through three stages of recovery where each stage requires different physiotherapy regimens.

Depending on what structure is injured or whether it is a muscle, a ligament, tendon, a nerve, spinal disc or a bone, they all have different healing time frames.

The three stages of recovery are:

  1. The acute stage is where the goal of the physiotherapist is to avoid making injury worse and to reduce pain and swelling.
  2. The second stage is the rehabilitation stage where the goal is to improve the strength, movement and control.
  3. The last stage is the training stage where the goal of physiotherapist is to get a person back to his/her normal functioning in day to day life.

All three stages of recovery require gradual transition because too much, too soon and too often results in re- injury and prolong healing time.

Therefore, to avoid prolonged healing time and poor outcomes, it is important to adhere to full rehabilitation program. No doubt, it is hard to adhere, for varied reasons, be it cost, time, convenience, family/social support, self-motivation or other personal reasons.


Openly discussing your issues will guide the therapist to come up with a suitable management plan that will help in injury recovery and positive outcomes because poor adherence to treatments can have negative effects on outcomes and health care cost.

This has been supported by large bodies of research where it is demonstrated that better adherence to physiotherapy rehabilitation is related to better outcomes for musculoskeletal conditions.   


Back In Motion physios use a unique tool called Results4Life® - it's your roadmap back to health and lifelong optimal physical health.



News and Events. (2014). Low back pain world’s highest contributor to disability

Donavan, J.L & Blake, D.R. (1992). Patient non-compliance: Deviance or reasoned decision making. Social science & medicine, 34(5)

Jack, K.,  McClean,S., Moffett,J.,& Gardiner,E. (2010). Barriers to treatment adherence in physiotherapy outpatient clinics: A systematic review. Manual therapy, 15,220-228

Kolt et al. (2007). The Sport Injury Rehabilitation Adherence Scale: a reliable scale for use in clinical physiotherapy. Physiotherapy, 93