Background: Non-malignant musculoskeletal pain is an increasing problem in western countries. Fibromyalgia syndrome is an increasing recognised chronic musculoskeletal disorder.
Objectives: The objective of this systematic review was to determine the effectiveness of multidisciplinary rehabilitation for fibromyalgia and widespread musculoskeletal pain among working age adults.
Search strategy: An electronic search was conducted and included Medline from 1966, PsycLIT from 1967 and EMBASE from 1980 to April 1998. The Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group Trials Register was searched as well as, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (CCTR). The references of identified articles and reviews were checked, studies published in the Finnish medical database Medic from 1978 to 1998 screened and the Science Citation Index searched. Content experts were also contacted for additional or unpublished studies.
Selection criteria: From all references found in our original search, we selected all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and clinical controlled trials (CCTs). Trials had to assess the effectiveness of multidisciplinary rehabilitation for patients suffering from fibromyalgia and widespread musculoskeletal pain among working age adults. The rehabilitation program was required to be multidisciplinary; that is, it had to consist of a physician's consultation, plus a psychological, social or vocational intervention, or a combination of both.
Data collection and analysis: Four reviewers independently selected the RCTs and CCTs that met the specified inclusion criteria. Two experts in the field of rehabilitation evaluated the relevance and applicability of the findings of the selected studies to actual clinical use. Two other reviewers extracted the data and assessed the main results and the methodological quality of the studies using standardized forms. Finally, a qualitative analysis was performed to evaluate the level of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of multidisciplinary rehabilitation.
Main results: After screening 1808 abstracts, and the references of 65 reviews, we found only seven relevant studies (1050 patients) that met our inclusion criteria. None of these were considered, methodologically, a high quality randomized controlled trial. Four of the included RCTs on fibromyalgia were graded low quality and suggest no quantifiable benefits. The three included RCTs on widespread musculoskeletal pain showed that based on limited evidence, overall, no evidence of efficacy was observed. However, behavioral treatment and stress management appear to be important components. Education combined with physical training showed some positive effects in long term follow up.
Reviewer's conclusions: We conclude that there appears to be little scientific evidence for the effectiveness of multidisciplinary rehabilitation for these musculoskeletal disorders. However, multidisciplinary rehabilitation is a commonly used intervention for chronic musculoskeletal disorders, which cause much personal suffering and substantial economic loss to the society. There is a need for high quality trials in this field.