Adherence of Individuals in Upper Extremity Rehabilitation: A Qualitative Study

Enrique V. Smith-Forbes, Dana M. Howell, Jason Willoughby, Hilary Armstrong, Donald G. Pitts, Tim L. Uhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective To describe the rehabilitation experiences, expectations, and treatment adherence of patients receiving upper extremity (UE) rehabilitation who demonstrated discrepancy between functional gains and overall improvement. Design Qualitative (phenomenologic) interviews and analysis. Setting Outpatient UE rehabilitation. Participants Patients with acute UE injuries (N=10). Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measure Concerns related to UE rehabilitation patients demonstrating discrepancy between outcome measures. Results Five key themes emerged from the interviews of patients demonstrating discrepancy in their self-reported patient outcomes: (1) desire to return to normal, (2) initial anticipation of brief recovery, (3) trust of therapist, (4) cannot stop living, and (5) feelings of ambivalence. Challenges included living with the desire to move back into life. Multiple factors affected patient adherence: cost of treatment, patient-provider relation (difference between therapist and patient understanding on what is important for treatment), and patients expecting the treating therapists to be an expert and fix their problem. Conclusions Patient adherence to UE rehabilitation presents many challenges. Patients view themselves as laypersons and seek the knowledge of a dedicated therapist who they trust to spend time with them to understand what they value as important and clarify their injury, collaboratively make goals, and explain the intervention to get them in essence, back into life, in the minimal required time. When categorized according to the World Health Organization's multidimensional adherence model, domains identified in this model include social and economic, health care team and system, condition-related, therapy-related, and patient-related dimensions. Assessing factors identified to improve efficiency and effectiveness of clinical management can enhance patient adherence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1262-1268.e1
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine


  • Compliance
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Qualitative research
  • Rehabilitation
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Adherence of Individuals in Upper Extremity Rehabilitation: A Qualitative Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this