Research Article

Doctors, physiotherapists, and placebo pharmacology.

Br Med J 1978; 2 doi: (Published 23 December 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;2:1761
  1. S Bourne


    A seminar of physiotherapists studied the psychological aspects of their work. Difficulty with doctors rather than patients was unexpectedly prominent. The following factors were identified as contributing to their dissatisfaction: doctors misused physiotherapy as a placebo in cases of incurable and untreatable disease and mental problems; because they faced questions about diagnosis and prognosis that doctors escaped they learnt to avoid knowing the facts about their patients; using quasiscientific apparatus had tended to replace physical contact; they saw their psychological skill as illicit and unprofessional; and they were uncertain about their role as social workers. Nevertheless, they tended to idealise doctors, which sharpened gratification in collaborative work and helped to alleviate anxiety about death and disease, but tended to reinforce sexual stereotyping and the image of physiotherapy as "unscientific," empirical, and intuititive ("feminine").