Implementation interventions to improve the management of non-specific low back pain: a systematic review

Simon Alexander Mesner*, Nadine E. Foster, Simon David French

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Recommendations in clinical practice guidelines for non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) are not necessarily translated into practice. Multiple studies have investigated different interventions to implement best evidence into clinical practice yet no synthesis of these studies has been carried out to date. The aim of this study was to systematically review available studies to determine whether implementation interventions in this field have been effective and to identify which strategies have been most successful in changing healthcare practitioner behaviours and improving patient outcomes.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken, searching electronic databases until end of December 2012 plus hand searching, writing to key authors and using prior knowledge of the field to identify papers. Included studies evaluated an implementation intervention to improve the management of NSLBP in clinical practice, measured key outcomes regarding change in practitioner behaviour and/or patient outcomes and subjected their data to statistical analysis. The Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) recommendations about systematic review conduct were followed. Study inclusion, data extraction and study risk of bias assessments were conducted independently by two review authors.

Results: Of 7654 potentially eligible citations, 17 papers reporting on 14 studies were included. Risk of bias of included studies was highly variable with 7 of 17 papers rated at high risk. Single intervention or one-off implementation efforts were consistently ineffective in changing clinical practice. Increasing the frequency and duration of implementation interventions led to greater success with those continuously ongoing over time the most successful in improving clinical practice in line with best evidence recommendations.

Conclusions: Single intervention or one-off implementation interventions may seem attractive but are largely unsuccessful in effecting meaningful change in clinical practice for NSLBP. Increasing frequency and duration of implementation interventions seems to lead to greater success and the most successful implementation interventions used consistently sustained strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number258
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • best practice guidelines
  • implementation
  • non-specific low back pain


Dive into the research topics of 'Implementation interventions to improve the management of non-specific low back pain: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this