Despite the enormous financial and humanistic burden of chronic low back pain (CLBP), there is little consensus on what constitutes the best treatment options from a multitude of competing interventions. The objective of this network meta-analysis (NMA) is to determine the relative efficacy and acceptability of primary care treatments for non-specific CLBP, with the overarching aim of providing a comprehensive evidence base for informing treatment decisions.
We will perform a systematic search to identify randomised controlled trials of interventions endorsed in primary care guidelines for the treatment of non-specific CLBP in adults. Information sources searched will include major bibliographic databases (MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL, CINAHL, PsycINFO and LILACS) and clinical trial registries. Our primary outcomes will be patient-reported pain ratings and treatment acceptability (all-cause discontinuation), and secondary outcomes will be functional ability, quality of life and patient/physician ratings of overall improvement. A hierarchical Bayesian class-based NMA will be performed to determine the relative effects of different classes of pharmacological (NSAIDs, opioids, paracetamol, anti-depressants, muscle relaxants) and non-pharmacological (exercise, patient education, manual therapies, psychological therapy, multidisciplinary approaches, massage, acupuncture, mindfulness) interventions and individual treatments within a class (e.g. NSAIDs: diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen). We will conduct risk of bias assessments and threshold analysis to assess the robustness of the findings to potential bias. We will compute the effect of different interventions relative to placebo/no treatment for both short- and long-term efficacy and acceptability.
While many factors are important in selecting an appropriate intervention for an individual patient, evidence for the analgesic effects and acceptability of a treatment are key factors in guiding this selection. Thus, this NMA will provide an important source of evidence to inform treatment decisions and future clinical guidelines.
PROSPERO registry number: CRD42019138115.