Physiotherapists make a difference to the quality of life of a person with a life-limiting condition by reducing common symptoms such as pain, fatigue and dyspnoea, and by improving functional capacity to retain independence and dignity.
Physiotherapists assess and treat musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, developmental, neurological impairments that affect function, mobility and quality of life. Physiotherapists also provide education and advice about services and/or equipment. [1,2]
Members of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) can view the APA’s Scope of Practice (subscription required).
Physiotherapists may have roles of advanced or extended scope of practice which reflect a level of expertise within or beyond the established contemporary scope of practice. [3,4]
Palliative care provides a support system for people living with a life-limiting condition to live as actively as possible, with dignity, for as long as possible. It is active and supportive care that seeks to maximise quality of life.  It is useful well before death and not limited to care of the dying. 
In helping people with palliative care needs, a physiotherapist: [5-10]
Physiotherapists may work in palliative care as only part of their role or have a palliative care caseload within a specialist role. This may be as a member of a multidisciplinary team or a sole practitioner.
The APA has published information for the general public about physiotherapy for palliative care.
The RACGP aged care clinical guide (Silver Book 2019) recognises the role of allied health professionals in team care arrangements for a proactive person-centred approach to palliative care.  Palliative Care Australia also recognises the importance of access to information and support from a diverse range of allied health services for patients, families and carers. 
The role of allied health in palliative care is to provide the person with as much therapy time as possible. The goal of allied health in palliative care is around maintaining and improving functional ability. There may be a blurring of roles across allied health professions in palliative care more than in other care contexts.
Allied Health workers provide care in all practice settings. For further information on the specific area of practice go to Practice Settings.
Useful evidence-based information and resources on rehabilitative palliative care are available from Hospice UK.
Although physiotherapists are familiar with evidence and evidence-based practice through their training and continuing professional development (CPD), keeping up to date can be time-consuming.
CareSearch provides the tools to help find and use evidence. This includes PubMed searches on a multitude of topics and sections dedicated to Searching for Evidence and Using Evidence in Practice.
For support in applying evidence in practice, check out the Journal Club Basics page on CareSearch which provides information on the benefits of and practical pointers in setting up or joining a journal club.
Codes and guidelines to provide guidance to the physiotherapy profession developed by The Physiotherapy Board of Australia are freely accessible.
Members of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) can access the APA guides and guidelines (subscription required).
Guidelines specific to physiotherapy and palliative care in Australia have not been published, however, the Palliative Care Service Development Guidelines provides an overview of physiotherapy (as part of allied health) in palliative care. 
Irish Guidelines for the physiotherapy management of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) (1.45MB pdf). 
Physiotherapists have an important role in supporting patients, carers and their families with information. The CareSearch Resources for Patients, Carers and Families provides links to useful information including fact sheets and printable resources physiotherapists can download and share.
The National Palliative Care Strategy 2018 lists as a priority the ability of medical, nursing and allied health graduates to identify and address people’s palliative care needs (Priority 2.1, p15).  This is also highlighted for the acute sector in the Guiding Principles of the National Consensus Statement: essential elements for safe and high-quality end-of-life care which also recognises the importance of the role of an interdisciplinary team. 
CareSearch lists a collection of Palliative Care eLearning resources for allied health for independent learning.
Visit the palliAGED Practice Centre
Read the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) Physiotherapy Palliative Care Competencies (1.80MB pdf)
Watch the Palliative Care Bridge video about managing fatigue
Last updated 24 October 2023