Neuromuscular adaptations to experimentally induced pain in the lumbar region: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

Valter Devecchi, Deborah Falla, Hélio V Cabral, Alessio Gallina

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BACKGROUND: Numerous studies report changes in neuromuscular control in people with low back pain (LBP). However, the relationship between pain and altered neuromuscular control is challenging to unravel given the heterogeneity that exists in clinical populations. One approach commonly adopted to overcome this issue is the use of experimental pain models, but it is currently unclear if the effects of experimental pain are consistent between studies. Therefore, this planned study will systematically evaluate and summarise the effect of experimentally induced pain in the lumbar region on neuromuscular control at sites both locally and remote to the low back.

METHODS: This protocol has been developed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P). MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ZETOC, Web of Science, and grey literature will be searched up to August 31, 2021. Screening processes (title/abstract and full-text), data extraction, and risk of bias assessment will be conducted by two independent reviewers. Studies investigating the effects of exogenous pain models delivered to the low back region on neuromuscular control in healthy individuals will be included. Muscle activity and body kinematics will be the outcomes of interest. The comparisons of interest will be between baseline or control conditions and the experimental pain condition, as well as between the experimental pain and post-pain conditions. Randomised crossover and non-randomised studies of interventions will be included and their risk of bias will be evaluated with the Cochrane Risk-of-Bias tool or with the Risk Of Bias In Non-randomised Studies of Interventions tool, respectively. A random-effect meta-analysis will be conducted for quantitative synthesis when clinical and methodological consistency is ensured. Quality of evidence will be evaluated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation guidelines.

DISCUSSION: The current review will provide new insights to understand if and what neuromuscular adaptations are caused by pain experimentally induced in the lumbar region. Our findings will reveal which experimental pain model is able to better reproduce adaptations similar to those identified in people with low back pain, possibly contributing to improving our understanding of motor adaptation to low back pain in the long term.


Original languageEnglish
Article number270
Number of pages10
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Not supported by external funding.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Back pain
  • Neurophysiology
  • Rehabilitation medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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