Low back pain is a relatively common health problem which afflicts many adults, and its prevalence increases with age. Several studies have indicated that psychosocial factors are of importance in low back pain. The aim of this study was to carry out a systematic review of the efficacy of psychoeducation in managing low back pain from evidence provided by randomised controlled trials. The inclusion criteria for studies included in this systematic review were randomised controlled trials; patients with low back pain, with or without sciatica; the inclusion of a psychoeducation (treatment) arm; and age of patients ≥ 17 years. Data extraction revealed the heterogeneous nature of the psychoeducational interventions. Accordingly, it was deemed inappropriate to carry out a formal meta-analysis. Ultimately, nine studies, corresponding to 10 publications, were included in the systematic review. When possible, group contrast mean difference effect sizes were calculated for the studies. Overall, favourable outcomes associated with personalised telephone coaching, while unfavourable outcomes were associated with both Transtheoretical Model-based counselling and motivational enhancement treatment. Other forms of one-to-one counselling were associated with intermediate outcomes. Psychoeducation via personalised telephone coaching was particularly associated with reduced low back pain, reduced daily living disability, improved function and improved recovery expectation. On the basis of this review, the following suggestions are made relating to the design and publication of future studies of the efficacy of psychoeducation in the management of low back pain. First, it would be good to use an experimental design which blinds both the patients and the assessors to group status. Second, it is recommended that all the relevant outcome data from a study are published, either in the corresponding paper or in an on-line supplement. Third, it is important to ensure that the intervention and control groups are matched at baseline. Clearly, baseline group differences can emerge following random allocation of patients into two groups. It may be useful, therefore, to carry out all baseline assessments immediately prior to the randomisation process; an independent assessor could then examine the degree of matching at baseline before the rest of the study proceeds. It is also important that sufficiently large sample sizes be recruited.

KEYWORDS: Adult low back pain, randomised controlled trials, mood, psychoeducation, disability.

Basant K. Puri, Maria Theodoratou

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