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Which portion of physiotherapy treatments’ effect is attributable to contextual effects in people with musculoskeletal pain?: A meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2024 Apr 11:1-28. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2024.12126. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: To quantify the proportion attributable to contextual effects of physical therapy interventions for musculoskeletal pain. DESIGN: Intervention systematic review with meta-analysis. LITERATURE SEARCH: We searched Ovid, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Scopus, PEDro, Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry, and SPORTDiscus databases from inception to April 2023. STUDY SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized placebo-controlled trials evaluating the effect of physical therapy interventions on musculoskeletal pain. DATA SYNTHESIS: Risk of bias was evaluated using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials (ROB 2.0). The proportion of physical therapy interventions effect that is explained by contextual effects was calculated, and a quantitative summary of the data from the studies was conducted using the random-effects inverse-variance model (Hartung-Knapp-Sidik-Jonkman method). RESULTS: Sixty-eight studies were included in the systematic review (participants: n=5,238), and 54 placebo-controlled trials informed our meta-analysis (participants: n=3,793). Physical therapy interventions included soft tissue techniques, mobilization, manipulation, taping, exercise therapy and dry needling. Placebo interventions included manual, non-manual interventions, or both. The proportion attributable to contextual effects of mobilization accounted for 88% of the immediate overall treatment effect for pain intensity (PCE=0.88, 95%CI 0.57-1.20). In exercise therapy, contextual effects accounted for 46% of the overall treatment effect for pain intensity (PCE=0.46, 95%CI 0.41-0.52). Contextual effects in manipulation excelled in short-term pain relief (PCE=0.81, 95%CI 0.62-1.01) and in mobilization in long-term effects (PCE=0.86, 95%CI 0.76-0.96). In taping, contextual effects accounted for 64% of disability improvement (PCE=0.64, 95%CI 0.48-0.80). CONCLUSION: The outcomes of physical therapy interventions for musculoskeletal pain were significantly influenced by contextual effects. Boosting contextual effects consciously to enhance therapeutic outcomes represents an ethical opportunity that could benefit patients.

PMID:38602164 | DOI:10.2519/jospt.2024.12126


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