Journal Article

What is rehabilitation? An empirical investigation leading to an evidence-based description


Background. There is no agreement about or understanding of what rehabilitation is; those who pay for it, those who provide it, and those who receive it all have different interpretations. Further, within each group, there will a variety of opinions. Definitions based on authority or on theory also vary and do not give a clear description of what someone buying, providing or receiving rehabilitation can actually expect. Method. This editorial extracts information from systematic reviews that find rehabilitation to be effective, to discover the key features and to develop an empirical definition. Findings. The evidence shows that rehabilitation may benefit any person with a longer-lasting disability, arising from any cause, may do so at any stage of the illness, at any age, and may be delivered in any setting. Effective rehabilitation depends on an expert multi-disciplinary team, working within the biopsychosocial model of illness, and working collaboratively towards agreed goals. The effective general interventions include exercise, practice of tasks, education of and self-management by the patient, and psychosocial support. In addition, a huge range of other interventions may be needed, making rehabilitation an extremely complex process; specific actions must be tailored to the needs, goals and wishes of the individual patient, but the consequences of any action are unpredictable, and may not even be those anticipated. Conclusion. Effective rehabilitation is a person-centred process, with treatment tailored to the individual patient’s needs and, importantly, personalised monitoring of changes associated with intervention, with further changes in goals and actions if needed.

Attached files


Wade, Derick

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-01-27

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of What is rehabilitation? An empirical investigation leading to an evidence-based description


  • Owner: Joseph Ripp
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 553