The benefits of family-based interventions for patients with musculoskeletal pain have been previously shown in individual randomised controlled trials (RCTs), but no systematic review has summarised their effects.
A systematic review was conducted to assess the effectiveness of family-based interventions on clinical and biopsychosocial outcomes in people with musculoskeletal pain (PROSPERO CRD42018118442). Meta-analyses were performed for the outcomes of pain intensity, disability, mood, self-efficacy, and marital adjustment.
Of 1,223 records identified, 18 reports representing 15 RCTs were included in the qualitative review and 10 in the meta-analyses. Family-based interventions were more effective to reduce pain [Mean difference (MD): -3.55/100; 95%CI -4.03, -3.06], and disability (MD: -1.51/100; 95%CI -1.98, -1.05) than individual-focused interventions at short-term, but not at mid or long-term. There were no effects on other outcomes. Family-based interventions were more effective to reduce pain (MD: -6.05/100; 95%CI -6.78, -5.33) compared to usual care only at short-term. No effects were found on disability and other outcomes.
There is moderate-quality evidence that family-based interventions result in small, significantly better pain and disability outcomes in the short-term compared to individual-focused interventions in patients with musculoskeletal pain. Based on low-quality evidence, family-based interventions result in small improvements on pain in the short-term compared to usual care. Future studies should review the content and optimise the mechanisms underpinning family-based interventions in musculoskeletal pain so that the approach could be further tested in adequately powered RCTs.