Tianyu Zhou, David Salman, Alison H. McGregor

August 2023, pp 1 - 13 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-023-07900-4

First Online: 28 August 2023


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a highly prevalent musculoskeletal condition affecting 60–80% of the general population within their lifetime. Given the large numbers of people affected, self-management approaches have been introduced as a way to manage this condition with endorsement by the national institute for health and care excellence. Interventions are often termed self-management without defining either content or goals. Our study sought to determine the content, characteristics, and evidence for self-management of CLBP.


This narrative review was conducted using a systematic approach to search journal articles in English that focused on CLBP self-management. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases were used to identify publications with terms relating to back pain and self-management from January 2016 until January 2022.


In total, 15 studies were found suitable for inclusion in the review. Core components of self-management strategies include exercise, education, and psychological interventions, but there was a lack of consistency with respect to content. Intervention characteristics were either under-reported or varied. Furthermore, outcome measures used to assess these self-management programmes were diverse, mainly focusing on functional disability and pain intensity.


Inconsistencies in the content of self-management interventions, intervention characteristics, and outcome measures used for assessing self-management programmes were found across the literature. Current self-management approaches do not consider the complex biopsychosocial nature of CLBP. A consensus on the key components of self-management interventions, and how they should be evaluated, will pave the way for research to determine whether self-management can effectively manage CLBP.

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