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Understanding how therapeutic exercise prescription changes outcomes important to patients with persistent non-specific low back pain: a realist review protocol

Wood, Lianne; Booth, Vicky; Dean, Sarah; Foster, Nadine E.; Hayden, Jill A.; Booth, Andrew


Lianne Wood

Vicky Booth

Sarah Dean

Nadine E. Foster

Jill A. Hayden

Andrew Booth


Introduction: Persistent low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and therapeutic exercise is recommended as a first-line treatment in international guidelines. The effects of exercise on clinical outcomes of pain and physical function are small to moderate, despite broader impacts on cardiovascular systems, biological health, mood, and emotional well-being. Therapeutic exercise prescription is defined as exercise that is prescribed by a clinician for a health-related treatment. It is unknown how therapeutic exercise prescription creates effects on outcomes of importance. Realist reviews explore how underlying mechanisms (M) may be active in the context (C) of certain situations, settings, or populations to create an intended or unintended outcome (O). Our objective is to explore and understand the mechanisms by which therapeutic exercise prescription changes outcomes for people with persistent LBP. Methods: We will develop initial programme theories based on preliminary data from a previous systematic review and consensus workshop. These theories will be modified with input from a steering group (experts), a stakeholder group (people with lived experience of exercise for persistent LBP and clinicians), and a scoping search of the published literature. An information specialist will design and undertake an iterative search strategy. These will be used to create CMO configurations, which will be refined and tested using the literature. The realist review will be reported following RAMESES guidance. Discussion: Realist reviews are uncommon in LBP research to date, yet those offer an opportunity to contrast with traditional methods of randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews and provide additional information regarding the contexts and mechanisms that may trigger certain outcomes. This can aid our understanding of the contextual features that may influence exercise prescription, such as for whom they are most effective, in what setting, how they are implemented and why. This realist synthesis will enhance our understanding of therapeutic exercise prescription to improve adherence and engagement and ultimately will provide clinically relevant recommendations regarding exercise prescription for those with persistent LBP. Systematic review registration: The review has been registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017072023).

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2024
Online Publication Date Feb 8, 2024
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2024
Journal Systematic Reviews
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 1
Pages 63
Keywords Lower back pain, Exercise, Exercise therapy, Review
Publisher URL