The effectiveness of weight loss programs for low back pain: a systematic review Academic Article uri icon

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  • Abstract Background Low back pain has been associated with obesity or with being overweight. However, there are no high-quality systematic reviews that have been conducted on the effect of all types of weight loss programs focused on individuals with low back pain. Therefore, the present systematic review aims to evaluate the effectiveness of weight loss programs in reducing back pain and disability or increasing quality of life for individuals experiencing low back pain. Materials and methods Searches for relevant studies were conducted on CINAHL, Web of Science, Ovid Medline, Ovid Embase and AMED. Studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials, non-randomized studies of intervention or quasi-experimental designs evaluating a weight loss program for persons with low back pain aimed at decreasing back pain and disability. The Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) Quality Assessment Tool was used to evaluate individual studies and GRADE was used to summarize the quality of the evidence. The review was prospectively registered; PROSPERO#: CRD42020196099. Results Eleven studies (n = 689 participants) including one randomized controlled trial, two non-randomized studies of intervention and eight single-arm studies were included (seven of which evaluated bariatric surgery). There was low-quality evidence that a lifestyle intervention was no better than waitlist for improving back pain and very low-quality evidence from single-arm studies that back pain improved from baseline after bariatric surgery. Most studies included were of poor quality, primarily due to selection bias, uncontrolled confounders, and lack of blinding, limiting the quality of evidence. Conclusion There is very low-quality evidence that weight loss programs may improve back pain, disability, and quality of life in patients with LBP, although adherence and maintenance are potential barriers to implementation.


  • Chen, Lu Hsi
  • Weber, Kirsten
  • Mehrabkhani, Saba
  • Baskaran, Sarmina
  • Abbass, Thomas
  • Macedo, Luciana

publication date

  • December 2022