REVIEW ARTICLE (META-ANALYSIS)| Volume 102, ISSUE 11, P2201-2218, November 2021

Region-specific Exercises vs General Exercises in the Management of Spinal and Peripheral Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Systematic Review With Meta-analyses of Randomized Controlled Trials

Published:March 05, 2021DOI:



      To compare the efficacy of region-specific exercises to general exercises approaches for adults with spinal or peripheral musculoskeletal disorders (MSKDs).

      Data Sources

      Electronic searches were conducted up to April 2020 in Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health.

      Study Selection

      Randomized control trials (RCTs) on the efficacy of region-specific exercises compared to general exercises approaches for adults with various MSKDs.

      Data Extraction

      Mean differences and standardized mean differences were calculated using random-effects inverse variance modeling. Eighteen RCTs (n=1719) were included. Cohorts were composed of participants with chronic neck (n=313) or low back disorders (n=1096) and knee osteoarthritis (OA) (n=310).

      Data Synthesis

      Based on low-quality evidence in the short-term and very low-quality in the mid- and long-term, there were no statistically significant differences between region-specific and general exercises in terms of pain and disability reductions for adults with spinal disorders or knee OA. Secondary analyses for pain reduction in the short-term for neck or low back disorders did not report any statistically significant differences according to very low- to low-quality of evidence.


      The difference in treatment effect remains uncertain between region-specific and general exercises approaches. Based on very low- to low-quality evidence, there appear to have no differences between both types of exercise approaches for pain reduction or disability for adults with spinal disorders. Future trials may change the current conclusions. More evidence is needed for region-specific exercises compared to general exercises for other peripheral MSKDs including knee OA.


      List of abbreviations:

      CI (confidence interval), GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations), LBP (low back pain), MCE (motor control exercise), MD (mean difference), MSKD (musculoskeletal disorder), NRS (Numeric Rating Scale), OA (osteoarthritis), RCT (randomized controlled trial), SF-36 (Short Form-36 Health Survey), SMD (standardized mean difference), VAS (visual analog scale)
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