2 files

Artificial intelligence to improve back pain outcomes and lessons learnt from clinical classification approaches: three systematic reviews

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) could enhance the ability to detect patterns of clinical characteristics in low back pain (LBP) and guide treatment. We conducted three systematic reviews to address the following aims: (a) review the status of AI/ML research in LBP, (b) compare its status to that of two established LBP classification systems (STarT Back, McKenzie). AI/ML in LBP is in its infancy: 45 of 48 studies assessed sample sizes <1000 people, 19 of 48 studies used ≤5 parameters in models, 13 of 48 studies applied multiple models and attained high accuracy, 25 of 48 studies assessed the binary classification of LBP versus no-LBP only. Beyond the 48 studies using AI/ML for LBP classification, no studies examined use of AI/ML in prognosis prediction of specific sub-groups, and AI/ML techniques are yet to be implemented in guiding LBP treatment. In contrast, the STarT Back tool has been assessed for internal consistency, test-retest reliability, validity, pain and disability prognosis, and influence on pain and disability treatment outcomes. McKenzie has been assessed for inter- and intra-tester reliability, prognosis, and impact on pain and disability outcomes relative to other treatments. For AI/ML methods to contribute to the refinement of LBP (sub )classification and guide treatment allocation, large data sets containing known and exploratory clinical features should be examined. There is also a need to establish reliability, validity, and prognostic capacity of AI/ML techniques in LBP as well as its ability to inform treatment allocation for improved patient outcomes and/or reduced health care costs.



npj digital medicine



Article number



1 - 16


Nature Publishing Group


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal