Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Psychological Interventions Delivered by Physiotherapists on Pain, Disability and Psychological Outcomes in Musculoskeletal Pain Conditions

Silva Guerrero, Alma Viviana, BPhty(Hons)*,†; Maujean, Annick, PhD*,‡; Campbell, Letitia, BPsySc(Hons)*; Sterling, Michele, PhD*,‡

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000601
Review Articles

Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effectiveness of physiotherapist delivered psychological interventions combined with physiotherapy on pain, disability, and psychological outcomes for patients with musculoskeletal pain conditions.

Methods: The review was conducted in accordance with the (PRISMA) guidelines. Five databases were systematically searched for randomized controlled trials from inception to May 2016. Studies were required to compare a psychological intervention delivered by physiotherapists combined with physiotherapy to physiotherapy alone or usual care. Physiotherapists delivering the interventions must have undergone training by a psychologist or a health professional trained in the delivery of psychological interventions.

Results: A total of 34 articles met the eligibility criteria, of those, 30 were suitable for meta-analysis. There was low to high quality evidence that physiotherapist delivered psychological intervention combined with physiotherapy decreased pain in the short (26 studies, mean difference=−0.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.65 to −0.09) and long term (22 studies, mean difference=−0.38; 95% CI, −0.67 to −0.10) and decreased disability in the short term (29 studies, standardized mean difference =−0.14; 95% CI, −0.26 to −0.01). Effect sizes were small. Low to high quality evidence demonstrated small to medium effects for some psychological outcomes at short-term and long-term follow-ups.

Discussion: The results indicate that psychological interventions delivered by physiotherapist show promise to improve health outcomes, particularly psychological outcomes, in musculoskeletal pain conditions.

Recover Injury Research Centre, Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries, The University of Queensland, Herston

*Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Gold Coast

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Brisbane, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld, Australia

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Michele Sterling, PhD, Recover Injury Research Centre, Level 7, Oral Health Centre, The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia (e-mail:

Received December 23, 2016

Received in revised form February 2, 2018

Accepted February 13, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.