BACKGROUND: Prescription behavior in low back pain (LBP) differs between physical therapists with a biomedical versus a biopsychosocial belief, despite the presence of clinical guidelines.
OBJECTIVE: To examine (1) the beliefs of physical therapy students and their adherence to clinical LBP guidelines in Belgium and the Netherlands; (2) whether the beliefs and attitudes of physical therapy students change during education; (3) whether beliefs are related to guideline adherence; (4) whether beliefs and attitudes differ with or without a personal history of LBP.
METHODS: A cross-sectional design included students in the 2nd and 4th year of physical therapy education in 6 Belgian and 2 Dutch institutions. To quantify beliefs, the Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale, the Health Care Providers' Pain and Impairment Relationship Scale, and a clinical case vignette were used.
RESULTS: In total, 1624 students participated. (1) Only 47% of physical therapy students provide clinical guidelines' consistent recommendations for activity and 16% for work. (2) 2nd year students score higher on the biomedical subscales and lower on the psychosocial subscale. 4th year students make more guideline consistent recommendations about work and activity. (3) Students with a more biopsychosocial belief give more guideline adherent recommendations. (4) Personal experience with LBP is not associated with different beliefs or attitudes.
CONCLUSIONS: A positive shift occurs from a merely biomedical model towards a more biopsychosocial model from the 2nd to the 4th year of physical therapy education. However, guideline adherence concerning activity and work recommendations remains low.