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Physiotherapy in Eating Disorders

This webpage provides information and resources to support Physiotherapy staff working within eating disorders, to guide and support clinical practice and professional development within this specialism.

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Eating disorders is a specialist service within mental health where patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia, including atypical presentations, have complex physiological and psychological problems. Two key features of eating disorders are distorted body image, and compulsive exercising behaviour, with the two often being interrelated, with individuals using exercise as a way of controlling their body weight and shape. 

Physiotherapy has a unique role to play in the treatment of eating disorders, as a member of the multidisciplinary team using physical therapeutic interventions and education to help patients overcome their symptoms and to accept their changing body shape as they restore weight. The physiotherapy role within this field encompasses specialist assessment, advice, education, treatment and management of the various physical and psychological components of an eating disorder, and plays a vital role in the management of compulsive exercise, osteoporosis and altered body image.  

As well as working individually with patients, many physiotherapists will run educative and practical exercise groups for all stages of illness, recovery and/or weight restoration, appropriate to BMI, taking into account the physical and mental health risks associated with eating disorders. 

The key areas that physiotherapy can address when treating an individual with an eating disorder:

  • Exercise and Physical Activity
  • Body Image and body awareness
  • Posture and musculoskeletal conditions
  • Osteoporosis and Bone Health
  • Anxiety management, relaxation and massage  

To the right of this page you will find valuable resources that provide guidance, information and evidence to support the role of Physiotherapy in Eating Disorders

The Physiotherapy Eating Disorders Professional Network Group is a specialist interest group made up of physiotherapists working in eating disorders services throughout the UK.

The aim of the group is to provide a forum for professional supervision/peer support relevant to working within eating disorders and to pool resources from a UK-wide highly specialised group of physiotherapists working within eating disorders. The group are instrumental in consolidating the knowledge base for the profession within eating disorders. This includes reviewing evidence based practice, improving the quality of service delivery, sharing and developing best practice, facilitating an opportunity for CPD and role development, and education to service providers.

For further information on the network or if you are a Physiotherapist working within Eating Disorders and would like to join the group, contact:

Chairperson – Kate Brown, Lead Physiotherapist, Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, kate.brown@cpft.nhs.uk

Professional Lead – Susie Calvert, Lead Physiotherapist, Schoen Clinic York, SCalvert@schoen-clinic.co.uk

Secretary – Beverley Anderson, Specialist Physiotherapist, Fulbrook Centre, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Beverley.Anderson@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk