Community-based interventions for chronic musculoskeletal health conditions in rural and remote populations: A systematic review

Pavithra Rajan, Claire Hiller, Jianhua Lin, Kathryn Refshauge, Michelle Lincoln, Andrew Leaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic musculoskeletal health conditions are highly prevalent in rural and remote areas, globally. It is unknown, however, whether interventions shown to be effective for urban populations are also effective for rural and remote populations. The purpose of the review was to evaluate the effectiveness of community-based interventions for management of chronic musculoskeletal health conditions in rural and remote populations. A systematic review was undertaken of the major databases: Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, Rural and Remote Health, Embase and PEDro to April 2020 with no restrictions on language or publication date. Odds Ratios were calculated to report differences between intervention and control groups. Risk of bias was assessed using the PEDro scale. Meta-analysis was not conducted, given the high heterogeneity among studies. From a total of 3,219 articles identified from the title search, five studies were eligible, with a total of 2,831 participants. Interventions evaluated included education alone, exercise with education and ergonomic modifications. Community-based education and exercise led to significantly reduced chronic musculoskeletal pain [OR = 1.85 (95% CI 1.22, 2.82)] compared with controls. Ergonomic stove installation significantly reduced average prevalence of back pain (0.25% reduction in pain prevalence; p <.05); however, no significant effect [OR = 1.02 (0.63, 1.65)] was found when transformed to Odds Ratio. There were divergent findings for education programmes alone: one study reported a positive effect [OR = 1.78 (1.27, 2.49)], while another reported no significant effect [delivered either in home [OR: 1.21 (0.78, 1.86)] or in small groups [OR = 0.95 (0.60, 1.51)]. A significant improvement in knowledge was found with community-based education delivered in participants’ homes [SMD: 1.27 (1.01, 1.54)], in small groups [SMD: 0.79 (0.53, 1.06)], using traditional puppetry [SMD: 4.79 (4.51, 5.06)], and with education and exercise [SMD: 0.29 (0.06, 0.52)]. There is low quality evidence that education and/or exercise improves knowledge of arthritis, and the effectiveness of ergonomic interventions on pain was unclear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1631
Number of pages11
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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