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Screening for Somatoform Symptoms in the Outpatient Orthopedic Physical Therapy Setting

1 May 2005


Background and Purpose: One of the most frustrating impediments in physical therapy arises when a patient's complaints do not coincide with information gathered during the evaluation process. This leads to repeated medical attention without validation. This impediment may be rooted in the unique psyche of the patient, and expressed via somatoform symptoms. These are defined as physical symptoms that cannot be fully explained by an organic cause.

Methods: The prevalence of somatoform symptoms in physical therapy outpatient clinics was analyzed through implementation of the SOMS-2 assessment tool, and involved 131 subjects.

Results: Among the subjects, 33 (25%) were positive for somatization. Of those 15 were male, 18 were female, 21 were older than 44 years of age, and 12 were less than 45 years old. There was no statistically significant difference when comparing genders or ages. However, there were 10 significant symptoms with somatization when compared to a negative control group, and common anatomical diagnostic categories were established.

Conclusion: The results demonstrate that any patient can show evidence of somatoform symptoms, warranting special consideration to manage their physical symptoms. As physical therapists move toward primary care providers with direct access, it is imperative to have the awareness and resources to identify somatization. One option is the SOMS-2 questionnaire.


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