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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 11;14(7):e0219488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219488. eCollection 2019.

The use of physiotherapy in nursing homes internationally: A systematic review.

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Department of Health Professions, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Department of Sports and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom.



Physiotherapy can improve functional ability, prevent falls and reduce pain for older adults in nursing homes. However, there are no legislations or guidelines that specify the parameters of physiotherapy required in nursing homes. With the increasing healthcare demands of ageing populations worldwide, it is important to understand the current use of physiotherapy services to ensure they are both evidence-based and promote equity.


(1) When and how are physiotherapy services used by older adults living in nursing homes? (2) What are the factors associated with use of physiotherapy services in nursing homes? (3) How are physiotherapy services in nursing homes documented and monitored?


Several databases and grey literature (including MEDLINE, PubMed, Pedro and EMBASE) were searched following PRISMA guidelines in March 2018. Searches were limited to English language publications from 1997. Assessment for inclusion, data extraction and quality assessment were completed by two investigators independently using standardised forms. Studies were included if they considered any type of physiotherapy service that involved a qualified physiotherapist (such as exercise, massage and staff education) with older adults (aged 60 years and older) that were primarily permanent residents of a nursing home. Data extracted included proportion of clients that used physiotherapy services, type, frequency and duration of physiotherapy services, and factors associated with physiotherapy service use.


Eleven studies were included. Between 10% and 67% of nursing home clients used physiotherapy services. Factors associated with greater use of physiotherapy services included larger size facilities, and if clients had a physical impairment and mild or no cognitive impairment. Types of physiotherapy services reported were pain management and pressure ulcer management.


Physiotherapy service use in nursing homes varied widely. The development of physiotherapy benchmarks and quality standards are needed to support older adults in nursing homes. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42018082460.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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