Effects of proprioceptive exercises on pain and function in chronic neck- and low back pain rehabilitation: a systematic literature review

M.A. McCaskey*, C. Schuster-Amft, B. Wirth, Z. Suica, E.D. de Bruin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Proprioceptive training (PrT) is popularly applied as preventive or rehabilitative exercise method in various sports and rehabilitation settings. Its effect on pain and function is only poorly evaluated. The aim of this systematic review was to summarise and analyse the existing data on the effects of PrT on pain alleviation and functional restoration in patients with chronic (>= 3 months) neck-or back pain. Methods: Relevant electronic databases were searched from their respective inception to February 2014. Randomised controlled trials comparing PrT with conventional therapies or inactive controls in patients with neck-or low back pain were included. Two review authors independently screened articles and assessed risk of bias (RoB). Data extraction was performed by the first author and crosschecked by a second author. Quality of findings was assessed and rated according to GRADE guidelines. Pain and functional status outcomes were extracted and synthesised qualitatively and quantitatively. Results: In total, 18 studies involving 1380 subjects described interventions related to PrT (years 1994-2013). 6 studies focussed on neck-, 12 on low back pain. Three main directions of PrT were identified: Discriminatory perceptive exercises with somatosensory stimuli to the back (pPrT, n = 2), multimodal exercises on labile surfaces (mPrT, n = 13), or joint repositioning exercise with head-eye coordination (rPrT, n = 3). Comparators entailed usual care, home based training, educational therapy, strengthening, stretching and endurance training, or inactive controls. Quality of studies was low and RoB was deemed moderate to high with a high prevalence of unclear sequence generation and group allocation (>60%). Low quality evidence suggests PrT may be more effective than not intervening at all. Low quality evidence suggests that PrT is no more effective than conventional physiotherapy. Low quality evidence suggests PrT is inferior to educational and behavioural approaches. Conclusions: There are few relevant good quality studies on proprioceptive exercises. A descriptive summary of the evidence suggests that there is no consistent benefit in adding PrT to neck-and low back pain rehabilitation and functional restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number382
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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