Evaluation of physical therapists' knowledge, attitudes, and professional use of dietary supplements: Implications for practice and education

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Purpose: The objective of this cross-sectional study was to better define physical therapists' (PTs) knowledge, attitudes, and professional reported use of dietary supplements (DSs). Methods: This study was approved by University of Colorado Investigational Review Board. A survey was developed and piloted to evaluate knowledge of supplement indications and serious side effects; comfort in performing medication/supplement histories and making therapeutic recommendations; and current practice and attitudes of supplement use and resource information. Therapists were identified through the Colorado Board of Physical Therapy. Five hundred surveys were mailed. Analysis of the survey items consisted of descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis of free text for themes and concepts. Results: One-hundred eight-four surveys were returned (38% response rate). Eighty-two percent were female. Forty-nine percent had a baccalaureate degree, 38 % master's degree, and 1.6 % Doctor of Physical Therapy. Over fifty percent practiced in an ambulatory setting. While 46% believed they were adequately educated on DS, only 50% of respondents could identify the correct indication for the designated supplement, while less than 6% one correct serious side effect, once efedra was excluded. For supplement information, more than 90% turned to non-peered review materials. Forty percent of therapist indicated that they were currently recommending DSs to their patients. Glucosamine, glucosamine with chondroitin, and methyl-sulfonylmethane comprised the top supplements suggested. Conclusions: PTs are recommending DS within their practice. While many therapists noted they were adequately educated, gaps in knowledge base were apparent. As physical therapy curricula continue to evolve, the addition of DS instruction should be considered a priority, as well as, steps put in place to provide additional education for practicing therapists. © 2006 ASAHP.

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