Rurality in Canadian physiotherapy studies: a literature search and synthesis

Main Article Content

Shirin Modarresi



Background: Rural residents have been reported to have poorer health and shorter life expectancies. Limited access to healthcare services due to geographical limitations is a significant causal factor and many efforts have been made to break these barriers. However, the health requirements of rural residents may be dissimilar to urban residents due to genetic makeup, culture, and environment. Thus, it is important to include rural residents in health research.

Objectives: The first objective of this study is to assess the existing literature and determine the prevalence of rural residents’ inclusion in Canadian physiotherapy studies. The second objective is to determine the specific health areas that have been studied using rural residents. The field of physiotherapy is chosen as it is an important part of healthcare with physiotherapists playing integral roles in prevention, management, and treatment of illnesses.

Methods: Three major electronic databases PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO were searched using the following keywords: physiotherapy OR physical therapy AND rural AND Canada. Information regarding the area of research, the percentage of rural participants, and the main results were extracted.

Results: In total, 94 articles were retrieved and after screening them against the inclusion criteria, a total of eight studies were selected. The health areas investigated in these eight studies were arthritis, stroke, cardiac rehabilitation in children, pain management, and cardiometabolic syndrome.

Discussion: Eight is an alarmingly low number of studies that have included rural participants and a large number of areas remain unstudied in this population. Future researchers are recommended to realize the potential differences between rural and urban residents and to include both types of dwellers in their studies or to explicitly indicate which type was recruited.