Introduction: Chronic musculoskeletal pain is associated with reduced balance performance and falls risk. Manual therapies are commonly used interventions for musculoskeletal pain. There is emerging evidence that manual therapies may improve balance. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of manual therapies for musculoskeletal pain on measures of static and dynamic stability.
Methods: Six electronic databases were searched using pre-defined eligibility criteria and two independent reviewers assessed all identified records. Risk of bias was assessed using the 12-item Cochrane Risk of Bias assessment by two authors independently and any discrepancies resolved through consensus. Meta-analysis was conducted when three or more studies used the same outcome measures including gait speed, timed up and go test, step test and sit-to-stand test.
Results: Twenty-six studies were included in the analysis. Both spinal and extremity musculoskeletal pain conditions were represented. Manual therapies included manipulation, mobilisation and massage. The most common intervention compared to manual therapy was exercise. Outcome measures included both clinical and objective measures of stability. Overall the risk of bias was reported as generally low or unclear.
Conclusion: Improvement in stability measures were reported in studies comparing manual therapy in the short term, but not long-term follow-up. There was no clear association between significant pain reduction and measures of stability. Further prospective studies are recommended to investigate whether manual therapies should be part of an integrative healthcare plan for risk of falls management and when a transition from manual therapy to more active interventions should occur for long term management.
Author keywords: Ageing — Balance — Manual therapy — Pain — Systematic review
Author affiliations: JCK, DV, MFA, SCH: Chiropractic, School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; BIP: School of Engineering, RMIT University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia; MFA: Private practice, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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