Is movement variability altered in people with chronic non-specific low back pain: a protocol for a systematic review

Amal M Alsubaie, Masood Mazaheri, Eduardo Martinez-Valdes, Deborah Falla

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Introduction: Motor variability is an important feature when performing repetitive movement, and in asymptomatic people functional tasks are typically performed with variable motor patterns. However, in the presence of chronic non-specific low back pain (LBP), people often present with different motor control strategies than those without pain. Movement variability has been assessed using a wide range of variables, including kinetic and kinematic components of motion. This has resulted in a wide range of findings reported in the literature and some contradicting results. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review is to investigate whether the amount and structure of motor variability are altered in people with chronic non-specific LBP, during both repetitive non-functional and functional tasks. Methods and analysis: This protocol for a systematic review is informed by Cochrane guidelines and reported in line with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ZETOC, Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus will be searched from their inception to December 2020 along with a comprehensive search of grey literature and key journals. Two independent reviewers will conduct the search, extract the data, assess risk of bias (using the Downs and Black Scale) for the included studies and assess overall quality of evidence based on Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation guidelines. Meta-analysis will be conducted if deemed appropriate. Alternatively, a narrative synthesis will be conducted and evidence summarised as an increase, decrease or no change in the motor variability of people with LBP compared with healthy controls. Ethics and dissemination: This study raises no ethical issues. Results will be submitted for publication in a peer review journal and presented at conferences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere046064
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2021

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


  • Back Pain
  • Bias
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Movement
  • Pain Management
  • Research Design
  • Spine
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic


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