Role of Physical Therapy Intervention in Patients With Life-Threatening Illnesses: A Systematic Review

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Physical therapy encompasses the skilled treatment and care for patients across the life span through a multitude of different practice settings. This includes caring for individuals within end-of-life or palliative care settings. The goal of treatment in this stage of care is to relieve physical, social, psychological, and spiritual suffering in order to improve overall quality of life in patients with terminal illnesses. There has been limited research conducted to investigate the utilization of physical therapy interventions in palliative care settings.


The purpose of this study was to contribute to the current research involving physical therapy and end-of-life care in terms of its efficacy, value, and how this value is perceived by patients and their caregivers.


This was completed by independently screening and reviewing the studies that were published between the years 1994 and 2014 and related to this topic. The databases and journals searched included CINAHL, PUBMED, MEDLINE, Cochrane, PEDro, the Journal of Palliative Care, the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and Google Scholar.


Thirteen qualitative articles were selected which met all inclusion criteria and discussed the role of physical therapy intervention in the palliative care setting. Methodological quality of articles were assessed using the QASP, scale and their findings were summarized and presented in table format.


These articles support the utilization of physical therapy in palliative care settings and emphasizes the impact of physical therapy on improving patients’ physical, social, and emotional well-being.

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