Review article (meta-analysis)| Volume 97, ISSUE 2, P292-301, February 2016

Physiotherapy Commenced Within the First Four Weeks Post–Spinal Surgery Is Safe and Effective: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Published:September 23, 2015DOI:



      To determine whether physiotherapy commenced within the first 4 weeks post–spinal surgery is safe and effective.

      Data Sources

      Electronic databases CINAHL, MEDLINE, AMED, PubMed, Embase, and PEDro were searched from the earliest date possible through May 2015. An additional trial was identified through reference list scanning.

      Study Selection

      Controlled trials evaluating comprehensive physiotherapy rehabilitation commenced within 4 weeks postoperatively compared with a control group receiving no physiotherapy, standard postoperative care, rest, less active physiotherapy, or sham physiotherapy after spinal surgery of a musculoskeletal etiology. Two reviewers independently applied inclusion and exclusion criteria, with disagreements discussed until consensus could be reached. Searching identified 3162 potentially relevant articles, of which 4 trials with 250 participants met the inclusion criteria.

      Data Extraction

      Data were extracted using a predefined data extraction form. Methodological quality of trials was assessed independently by 2 reviewers using the Downs and Black checklist. Pooled analyses were performed using a random-effects model with inverse variance methods to calculate risk differences and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) (dichotomous outcomes), and standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% CIs (continuous outcomes).

      Data Synthesis

      When compared with no or sham physiotherapy, early comprehensive physiotherapy did not increase the risk of adverse events (risk difference, −.01; 95% CI, −.07 to .05; I2=0%). In addition, there is moderate-quality evidence demonstrating a reduction in pain by a moderate and significant amount at 12 weeks (SMD=−.38; 95% CI, −.66 to −.10; I2=0%) and at 12+ months (SMD=−.30; 95% CI, −.59 to −.02; I2=0%).


      Early comprehensive physiotherapy commenced within the first 4 weeks post–spinal surgery does not increase the potential for an adverse event and leads to a moderate, statistically significant reduction in pain when compared with a control group.


      List of abbreviations:

      CI (confidence interval), DRI (Disability Rating Index), RMQ (Roland Morris Questionnaire), SMD (standardized mean difference)
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