European Spine Journal

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 2046–2058 | Cite as

Low back pain in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the effectiveness of conservative interventions

  • Zoe A. MichaleffEmail author
  • Steven J. Kamper
  • Christopher G. Maher
  • Roni Evans
  • Carolyn Broderick
  • Nicholas Henschke
Review Article



To identify and evaluate the effectiveness of conservative treatment approaches used in children and adolescents to manage and prevent low back pain (LBP).


Five electronic databases and the reference lists of systematic reviews were searched for relevant studies. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were considered eligible for inclusion if they enrolled a sample of children or adolescents (<18 years old) and evaluated the effectiveness of any conservative intervention to treat or prevent LBP. Two authors independently screened search results, extracted data, assessed risk of bias using the PEDro scale, and rated the quality of evidence using the GRADE criteria.


Four RCTs on intervention and eleven RCTs on prevention of LBP were included. All included studies had a high risk of bias scoring ≤7 on the PEDro scale. For the treatment of LBP, a supervised exercise program compared to no treatment improved the average pain intensity over the past month by 2.9 points (95 % CI 1.6–4.1) measured by a 0–10 scale (2 studies; n = 125). For the prevention of LBP, there was moderate quality evidence to suggest back education and promotion programs are not effective in reducing LBP prevalence in children and adolescents.


While exercise interventions appear to be promising to treat LBP in children and adolescents, there is a dearth of research data relevant to paediatric populations. Future studies conducted in children and adolescents with LBP should incorporate what has been learnt from adult LBP research and be of rigorous methodological quality.


Low back pain Systematic review Children Adolescents 


Conflict of interest

None of the authors involved in the preparation of this manuscript have any potential, perceived or real conflict to disclose.

Supplementary material

586_2014_3461_MOESM1_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 66 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zoe A. Michaleff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven J. Kamper
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christopher G. Maher
    • 1
  • Roni Evans
    • 3
  • Carolyn Broderick
    • 4
  • Nicholas Henschke
    • 5
  1. 1.The George Institute for Global Health and Sydney Medical School, The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Wolfe-Harris Center for Clinical Studies, Northwestern Health Sciences UniversityMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.School of Medical Sciences, UNSW Medicine, Children’s Hospital Institute of Sports MedicineUniversity of New South Wales, Sydney Children’s Hospital NetworkSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Institute of Public HealthUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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