Physical activity and education about physical activity for chronic musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents

Mariana Nascimento Leite, Steven J. Kamper, Neil E. O'Connell, Zoe A. Michaleff, Emma Fisher, Priscilla Viana Silva, Christopher M. Williams, Tiê P. Yamato*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background:

Chronic pain is a major health and socioeconomic burden, which is prevalent in children and adolescents. Among the most widely used interventions in children and adolescents are physical activity (including exercises) and education about physical activity. 

Objectives:

To evaluate the effectiveness of physical activity, education about physical activity, or both, compared with usual care (including waiting-list, and minimal interventions, such as advice, relaxation classes, or social group meetings) or active medical care in children and adolescents with chronic musculoskeletal pain. 

Search methods:

We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PEDro, and LILACS from the date of their inception to October 2022. We also searched the reference lists of eligible papers, ClinicalTrials.gov, and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. 

Selection criteria:

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared physical activity or education about physical activity, or both, with usual care (including waiting-list and minimal interventions) or active medical care, in children and adolescents with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently determined the eligibility of the included studies. Our primary outcomes were pain intensity, disability, and adverse events. Our secondary outcomes were depression, anxiety, fear avoidance, quality of life, physical activity level, and caregiver distress. We extracted data at postintervention assessment, and long-term follow-up. Two review authors independently assessed risk of bias for each study, using the RoB 1. We assessed the overall certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach. We reported continuous outcomes as mean differences, and determined clinically important differences from the literature, or 10% of the scale. 

Main results:

We included four studies (243 participants with juvenile idiopathic arthritis). We judged all included studies to be at unclear risk of selection bias, performance bias, and detection bias, and at high risk of attrition bias. We downgraded the certainty of the evidence for each outcome to very low due to serious or very serious study limitations, inconsistency, and imprecision. Physical activity compared with usual care. Physical activity may slightly reduce pain intensity (0 to 100 scale; 0 = no pain) compared with usual care at postintervention (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.82 to -0.08; 2 studies, 118 participants; recalculated as a mean difference (MD) -12.19, 95% CI -21.99 to -2.38; I² = 0%; very low-certainty evidence). Physical activity may slightly improve disability (0 to 3 scale; 0 = no disability) compared with usual care at postintervention assessment (MD -0.37, 95% CI -0.56 to -0.19; I² = 0%; 3 studies, 170 participants; very low-certainty evidence). We found no clear evidence of a difference in quality of life (QoL; 0 to 100 scale; lower scores = better QoL) between physical activity and usual care at postintervention assessment (SMD -0.46, 95% CI -1.27 to 0.35; 4 studies, 201 participants; very low-certainty evidence; recalculated as MD -6.30, 95% CI -18.23 to 5.64; I² = 91%). None of the included studies measured adverse events, depression, or anxiety for this comparison. Physical activity compared with active medical care. We found no studies that could be analysed in this comparison. Education about physical activity compared with usual care or active medical care. We found no studies that could be analysed in this comparison. Physical activity and education about physical activity compared with usual care or active medical care. We found no studies that could be analysed in this comparison. 

Authors' conclusions: 

We are unable to confidently state whether interventions based on physical activity and education about physical activity are more effective than usual care for children and adolescents with chronic musculoskeletal pain. We found very low-certainty evidence that physical activity may reduce pain intensity and improve disability postintervention compared with usual care, for children and adolescents with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. We did not find any studies reporting educational interventions; it remains unknown how these interventions influence the outcomes in children and adolescents with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Treatment decisions should consider the current best evidence, the professional's experience, and the young person's preferences. Further randomised controlled trials in other common chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions, with high methodological quality, large sample size, and long-term follow-up are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD013527
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes

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