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New Research Shows How Physios Can Help Patients to Quit Smoking 

Recent research from cardiorespiratory physiotherapist Nia Luxton reveals how physiotherapists could play a key role in helping their patients to quit smoking. The study out of ACU explores a simple three-step intervention model created by Quit Victoria called the AAH model, standing for Ask, Advice and Help.  

The research was recently published in the Journal of Physiotherapy. In the report, Dr Luxton contended that the model was a practical and straightforward approach for physiotherapists to help their patients quit smoking. 

Physiotherapists are allied health professionals, constantly striving to improve the quality of life of their patients. As health and wellbeing advocates, they are well-placed to offer general lifestyle advice. It is clearly established that smoking leads to respiratory issues, cancers, heart disease, infections, dental problems, fertility problems and more.

Dr Luxton says, “Physiotherapists routinely promote physical activity and prescribe exercise, provide advice on how to improve general health and educate patients on how to reduce their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic pain for example”.

Yet they less routinely ‘intervene’ to help a patient’s quit attempt for a number of reasons, despite patients expecting smoking cessation to be addressed as part of their health advice.”

Physios also typically have regular contact with their patients over an extended period of time, meaning they can track a patient’s progress and note any changes. For patients that have had repeated quitting attempts, this is beneficial as a physio can provide ongoing advice and reinforce messaging over time.

The AAH model is divided into three steps:

ASK – physiotherapists can screen for issues with smoking.

ADVISE – physios can offer advice and information about seeking help and quitting.

HELP– the practitioner can then link their patient with a helpline or smoking cessation specialist.

Prior to the AAH, physiotherapists followed the 5A’s framework- Ask, Assess, Advise, Assist, Arrange. This was used in every state and territory and was endorsed by Quit Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria as well as medical bodies like the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. However, this extended approach is more time-consuming, and practitioners noted they didn’t have enough time, support or resources to fulfil all steps. This led to inconsistent care and poorer patient outcomes.

Moreover, physios are often hesitant to start a conversation about quitting smoking if they believe the patient will be unsuccessful in their attempt.

Dr Luxton also recognises problems with the 5As. She said, “While the 5As guidelines are evidence-based and comprehensive, they also require time and expertise to implement, a knowledge of available smoking support services and an ability to provide follow-up care to effectively help a patient maintain a long-term quit attempt”.

Luxton also noted, “The AAH model, which the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends, is a much simpler way for physiotherapists to refer patients who smoke for help.”

Ultimately the AAH model provides the most effective solution for physiotherapists to help their patients to quit smoking. The model should be embedded into the national university curriculum to ensure new physiotherapists feel equipped to deliver the three steps. Another notable message by Dr Luxton was that there is insufficient evidence that e-cigarettes should be used in the cessation of smoking.

Talking with your physio about smoking

As a patient, the key message to take away from this article is that your physio can support your quitting journey. You should not be afraid to discuss your quitting plans as you will be met by encouragement and help. If you want to quit smoking, you’re not alone. Currently, 75% of smokers want to quit, and with appropriate advice and support, you can.  

Book your appointment at Northern Districts Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic with one of our friendly and experienced practitioners today.

CALL 02 9874 8410    BOOK ONLINE


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Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


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