Deakin University

File(s) under embargo

The Impact of Exercise Prescription Variables on Intervention Outcomes in Musculoskeletal Pain: An Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews

journal contribution
posted on 2024-01-04, 04:14 authored by Nitin Kumar Arora, Lars Donath, Patrick Owen, Clint MillerClint Miller, Tobias Saueressig, Felicitas Winter, Marina Hambloch, Christopher Neason, Vera Karner, Daniel BelavyDaniel Belavy
Abstract Background Musculoskeletal pain conditions are the largest contributors to disability and healthcare burden globally. Exercise interventions improve physical function and quality of life in individuals with musculoskeletal pain, yet optimal exercise prescription variables (e.g. duration, frequency, intensity) are unclear. Objective We aimed to examine evidence gaps, methodological quality and exercise prescription recommendations in systematic reviews of exercise for musculoskeletal pain. Methods In our prospectively registered umbrella review, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and CINAHL were searched from inception to 14 February 2023. Backward citation tracking was performed. We included peer-reviewed, English language, systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) that compared exercise with conservative treatment, placebo or other exercise interventions in adults with musculoskeletal pain. Data were extracted from the following groups of reviews based on their reporting of exercise prescription data and analysis of the relationship between prescription variables and outcomes: (1) those that did not report any exercise prescription data, (2) those that reported exercise prescription data but did not perform a quantitative analysis and (3) those that performed a quantitative analysis of the relationship between exercise prescription variables and outcomes. Outcome measures were physical function, pain, mental health, adverse effects and adherence to treatment. AMSTAR-2 (A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews) was used to assess methodological quality. Results From 6757 records, 274 systematic reviews were included. 6.6% of reviews did not report any exercise prescription data, and only 10.9% quantitatively analyzed the relationship between prescription variables and the outcome(s). The overall methodological quality was critically low in 85% of reviews. Conclusion High methodological quality evidence is lacking for optimal exercise training prescription variables in individuals with musculoskeletal pain. To better inform practice and evidence gaps, future systematic reviews should (1) identify optimum exercise prescription variables, for example, via dose–response (network) meta-analysis, (2) perform high-quality reviews per AMSTAR-2 criteria and (3) include outcomes of mental health, adverse events and exercise adherence. PROSPERO registration number CRD42021287440 (



Sports Medicine




New Zealand








Springer Science and Business Media LLC