Physiotherapy interventions for the treatment of spasticity in people with spinal cord injury: a systematic review

Paulo Henrique Ferreira de Araujo Barbosa, Joanne V. Glinsky, Emerson Fachin-Martins, Lisa A. Harvey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Study design: Systematic review. Objective: To determine the effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions for the treatment of spasticity in people with spinal cord injuries. Setting: Not applicable. Methods: A comprehensive search was undertaken to identify all randomised controlled trials of physiotherapy interventions that included an assessor-reported (objective) or participant-reported (subjective) measure of spasticity. Only trials that provided a physiotherapy intervention on more than one occasion were included. The susceptibility to bias of each trial was rated on the PEDro scale. Data were extracted to derive mean between-group differences (95% CI) for each trial. Results: Twenty-eight trials were identified but only 17 provided useable data. Seven trials compared a physiotherapy intervention to no intervention (or a sham intervention) and 10 trials compared one physiotherapy intervention to another physiotherapy intervention. The median (IQR) PEDro score of the 17 trials was 6/10 (6–8). The most commonly used assessor- and participant-reported measures of spasticity were the Ashworth scale and Spinal Cord Injury Spasticity Evaluation Tool, respectively. Only one trial demonstrated a treatment effect. This trial compared continuous passive motion of the ankle to no treatment on the Ashworth scale. The remaining 16 trials were either inconclusive or indicated that the treatment was ineffective for reducing spasticity. Conclusions: There is no high-quality evidence to indicate that physiotherapy interventions decrease spasticity but this may reflect a lack of research on the topic. Future trials should focus on participant-reported measures of spasticity that distinguish between the immediate, short-term and long-term effects of any physiotherapy intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-247
Number of pages12
JournalSpinal Cord
Volume59
Issue number3
Early online date9 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

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