Clinical Reasoning Strategies in Physical Therapy

Ian Edwards, Mark Jones, Judi Carr, Annette Braunack-Mayer, Gail M. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

290 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose. Clinical reasoning remains a relatively under-researched subject in physical therapy. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the clinical reasoning of expert physical therapists in 3 different fields of physical therapy: orthopedic (manual) physical therapy, neurological physical therapy, and domiciliary care (home health) physical therapy. Subjects. The subjects were 6 peer-designated expert physical therapists (2 from each field) nominated by leaders within the Australian Physiotherapy Association and 6 other interviewed experts representing each of the same 3 fields. Methods. Guided by a grounded theory method, a multiple case study approach was used to study the clinical practice of the 6 physical therapists in the 3 fields. Results. A model of clinical reasoning in physical therapy characterized by the notion of "clinical reasoning strategies" is proposed by the authors. Within these clinical reasoning strategies, the application of different paradigms of knowledge and their interplay within reasoning is termed "dialectical reasoning." Discussion and Conclusion. The findings of this study provide a potential clinical reasoning framework for the adoption of emerging models of impairment and disability in physical therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-330
Number of pages19
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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