Physiotherapy helps prevent and manage chronic disease.

  • Physiotherapy reduces hospitalization rates for cardiovascular disease.
  • Physiotherapy reduces pain associated with chronic disease.
  • Physiotherapy helps patients improve their commitment to exercise/be active as part of their chronic disease management.
  • Physiotherapy can deliver interventions for patients with chronic disease, which reduces reliance on emergency rooms/hospitals to manage conditions.
  • Physiotherapy reduces the need for surgical interventions in some chronic diseases.

Approximately 50 percent of Canadians are living with at least one chronic health condition.1 Recent studies suggest that the number of chronic conditions seniors have is what drives the amount of health care services they need, rather than age.2 Research strongly supports the role of physiotherapists in the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic diseases, including hypertension, emphysema, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, arthritis, osteoporosis, and obesity. Physiotherapy interventions, including exercise prescription, facilitate patient participation in programs that enhance and maintain physical wellbeing, which has a significant impact on quality of life (QOL) and future use of health care services. Patients report that physiotherapy management of their chronic conditions results in decreased pain and shortness of breath,3 increased confidence and commitment to exercise,4 and enhanced social interaction5 (which contributes to improved QOL).

Generally, future use of health care resources is reduced through chronic disease prevention programs that have elements of exercise, education, and self-management strategies2 – all elements of interventions which fall within physiotherapists’ scopes of practice. For example, physiotherapy Cardiovascular Rehabilitation (CR) for coronary heart disease is cost-effective and proven effective in reducing hospitalization rates, improving health outcomes, and changing lifestyle behaviours.5 One large review found that exercise-based CR decreased cardiovascular mortality and hospital admissions and improved QOL for those with coronary heart disease.5 Overall, Physiotherapy programs enhance and maintain physical wellbeing for those with chronic conditions.5

Examples of positive health outcomes and cost-benefits of physiotherapy related to chronic conditions include the following:

  • Physiotherapy assessment and individualized exercise program strategies with virtual/telephone follow-up reduces the number of emergency visits, as well as hospital emergency and health service utilization.
  • Physiotherapy management of chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis, alleviates wait times for physician services by addressing pain and functional issues and reducing the need for more costly surgical interventions.
  • Patient self-management of chronic conditions is an efficient, effective, and sustainable use of health care resources.
  • Physiotherapy interventions target mobility and improve QOL for individuals with chronic diseases and conditions such as multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, chronic heart failure, and lymphedema related to breast cancer.
  • Physiotherapist-supervised inpatient exercise rehabilitation reduces physical impairment and improves functional ability and exercise capacity in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Read more about the role of physiotherapy in preventing and managing chronic diseases here.


[1] Health Council of Canada. (2012, May). Self-management support for Canadians with chronic health conditions: a focus on primary health care [PDF file]. Retrieved from

[2] Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2011, January). Seniors and the Health Care System: What Is the Impact of Multiple Chronic Conditions? [PDF file] Retrieved from

[3] Clemens, K.E., Jaspers, B., Klaschik, E., & Nieland, P. (2010, November). Evaluation of the clinical effectiveness of physiotherapeutic management of lymphoedema in palliative care patients. Jpn J Clin Oncol., 40(11), 1068-72. doi: 10.1093/jjco/hyq093

[4] Park, Y.H., Song, M., Cho, B.L., Lim, J.Y., Song, W., & Kim, S.H. (2011, January). The effects of an integrated health education and exercise program in community-dwelling older adults with hypertension: a randomized controlled trial. Patient Educ Couns., 82(1), 133-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.04.002

[5] Canadian Physiotherapy Association. (2012). The Value of Physiotherapy | Joint Arthoplasty [PDF file]. Retrieved from