Faculty Advisor(s)

Kristen Karnish, Audrey Campbell



Download Full Text (3.0 MB)


Background & Purpose: Approximately 9% of Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime1 and these disorders can impact the recovery of patients receiving physical therapy services. Physical therapists (PT) should be aware if a patient has a history of, or current history of an eating disorder or nutritional deficiency as these can negatively impact a patient’s participation and optimal functioning. Minimal research has been performed related to physical therapy and eating disorders. Determining outpatient physical therapists’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards eating disorders and if they are screening for eating disorders is the first step in furthering research to help bridge the gap in the literature and improve patient care for this population This is a descriptive cross-sectional study investigating outpatient physical therapists’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding eating disorder screening as a part of physical therapy practice. Participants: 231 licensed physical therapists working in an outpatient clinic setting. Methods: Researchers created a survey based on current literature on eating disorder screening and three physical therapists reviewed it for clarity. Questions were structured to target three main topics: knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of physical therapists on eating disorder screening. The electronic survey was created and distributed via employer emails, APTA listservs, and social media. Results: A total of 231 participants with an average age of 35.67 years old (±10.42 years) consented to participate in the study. The majority of the sample population, 63.06%, reported having no education on eating disorders. A total of 83.34% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that screening for eating disorders is within the physical therapists scope of practice. However, only 6.54% of participants routinely screen for eating disorders. Discussion: The vast majority of physical therapists surveyed did not screen patients for eating disorders. However, the majority of participants agreed/strongly agreed that screening for eating disorders is within the PT scope of practice and that they wanted to play a role in helping patients prevent poor eating habits. Educating patients about eating disorders should include providing appropriate resources to patients, whether that is a referral to another medical professional, a hotline/helpline, or general CDC nutritional guidelines. To identify patients with eating disorders screening is the first step. Physical therapists can then give education, refer to other professionals and modify the PT plan of care appropriately.

Publication Date


Document Type



Physical Therapy


nutrition, anorexia, bulimia, physiotherapy, survey


Physical Therapy

Outpatient Physical Therapists’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Regarding Eating Disorder Screening