Purpose: To identify and evaluate the effectiveness of conservative treatment approaches used in children and adolescents to manage and prevent low back pain (LBP).
Methods: Five electronic databases and the reference lists of systematic reviews were searched for relevant studies. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were considered eligible for inclusion if they enrolled a sample of children or adolescents (<18 years old) and evaluated the effectiveness of any conservative intervention to treat or prevent LBP. Two authors independently screened search results, extracted data, assessed risk of bias using the PEDro scale, and rated the quality of evidence using the GRADE criteria.
Results: Four RCTs on intervention and eleven RCTs on prevention of LBP were included. All included studies had a high risk of bias scoring ≤7 on the PEDro scale. For the treatment of LBP, a supervised exercise program compared to no treatment improved the average pain intensity over the past month by 2.9 points (95 % CI 1.6–4.1) measured by a 0–10 scale (2 studies; n = 125). For the prevention of LBP, there was moderate quality evidence to suggest back education and promotion programs are not effective in reducing LBP prevalence in children and adolescents.
Conclusions: While exercise interventions appear to be promising to treat LBP in children and adolescents, there is a dearth of research data relevant to paediatric populations. Future studies conducted in children and adolescents with LBP should incorporate what has been learnt from adult LBP research and be of rigorous methodological quality.