Comforting physiotherapy in palliative care

Scientific article in Fysioterapeuten 2/2015.

Lise Amundsen, spesialist i onkologisk fysioterapi MNFF. Fysioterapiavdelingen/ palliativt team Haukeland Universitetssykehus.

Hilde Eide, professor i klinisk kommunikasjon, forskningsleder Vitensenteret helse og teknologi, Fakultet for helsevitenskap, Høgskolen i Buskerud og Vestfold.

Eline Thornquist, professor i fysioterapi, Institutt for ergoterapi, fysioterapi og radiografi, Høgskolen i Bergen. Privatpraktiserende fysioterapeut, Nesttunhjørnet psykomotoriske praksis.


Purpose: The article examines how people with advanced cancer experience their own bodies and how they experience physical therapy.

Design, material and method: A phenomenological hermeneutic approach with in-depth interviews of seven people.

Findings: Two topics were related to bodily experiences, «the estranged body» and «the uncertain body». Three themes were related to physical therapy, «self-reliance and upright position», «touch» and «body and interaction». The constant changes in the body were reminders of life being threatened. Physiotherapy helped to preserve self-esteem, dignity and to maintain function and independence. The quality of interaction was essential for creating confidence and trust in the therapeutic situation, which in turn was vital for the participants’ benefit from physical therapy.

Conclusion: How physiotherapists and other health professionals relate to patients – both physically and verbally, is important for patients’ function and self-esteem. In palliative physiotherapy hand-on approaches and work to maintain the upright position seem to be significant.

Keywords: Incurable cancer, palliative physiotherapy, body experiences, qualitative research, palliative care.

Fulltext article in Norwegian.

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