Physiotherapy 'not a proven treatment'

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There is no proof that physiotherapy, one of the most widely prescribed treatments in the health service, actually works.

A Consumers' Association report says there is growing pressure on the 16,000 NHS physiotherapists to evaluate their work in line with demands that only treatments with proven efficacy should be part of a modern health service.

Physiotherapy is increasingly popular for treating everything from terminal diseases, such as motor neurone disease, to minor sports injuries.

However, testing their various treatments is difficult and previous research has been criticised for failing to eliminate factors which could influence the outcome, such as the expectations patients and practitioners have of the treatment.

In today's issue of Which? Way to Health, the Association also criticises some physiotherapists for including complementary therapies as part of their treatment without additional training or qualifications.

A spokesman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists said the Society was conscious of the need to show how and why treatments worked. "There are lots of things in healthcare which can't be proven. But we are encouraging members to get involved in research," he said.