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Exercise Science 115


Four Elements of the Clinical Question

Patient, population or problem What are the characteristics of the patient or population (e.g. disease or condition, age, gender)?
Intervention or exposure What is the main intervention of interest (e.g. drug or other treatment, diagnostic/screening test)?
Comparison What is the alternative being considered (e.g. standard therapy, placebo, no treatment)?
Outcomes What are the relevant outcomes (e.g. reduced risk of mortality, return to function, accurate diagnosis)?

PICO Question

Step 1: An adult patient presents with lower back pain from working as bricklayer.  When asked the patient states that they have decreased function in their back and is wondering if stabilization exercises may increase function over manual physical therapy. 

Step 2: In what ways, do stabilization exercises (intervention) increase function (outcome) more effectively than manual therapy (comparison) for adults with lower back pain (patient)?

Step 3:

Patient/Population Intervention Comparison Outcomes
  • Adult
  • Lower back pain   
  • Stabilization Exercises  
  • Manual Physical Therapy 
  • Increased function


A 64 year old obese male who has tried many ways to lose weight presents with a newspaper article about ‘fat-blazer’ (chitosan AKA chitin). He asks for your advice.

What is the question in PICO?