Outcomes with individual versus group physical therapy for treating urinary incontinence and low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Nov;95(11):2187-98. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.07.005. Epub 2014 Jul 23.


Objective: To evaluate the existing evidence comparing the outcomes of rehabilitation conducted in a group setting and individual therapy for patients receiving rehabilitation.

Data sources: Electronic databases MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PEDro, and OT Seeker were searched from the earliest date possible to July 2013. Additional references were identified by manual scanning of reference lists.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials investigating the effect of group therapy compared with individual therapy for patients receiving rehabilitation were included for review. Two reviewers independently applied the inclusion and exclusion criteria to identify included articles. Initial search identified 1527 potential articles, of which 16 trials with 2337 participants were included in the final review.

Data extraction: Data extraction was completed for all included trials by one reviewer, using a customized data extraction form. Data were checked for accuracy by a second reviewer. Trials were independently assessed by 2 reviewers for methodological quality using the PEDro scale.

Data synthesis: Trials meeting inclusion criteria had been conducted in back pain (n=6 studies), urinary incontinence (n=5), learning disability (n=2), hearing loss (n=1), joint replacement (n=1), and aphasia (n=1). Meta-analysis of physical therapy trials in back pain and urinary incontinence reporting sufficient homogeneous data showed no significant difference in outcomes for group versus individual therapy. These results were also supported by qualitative analysis of the remaining studies in these populations, but there is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding other clinical areas.

Conclusions: Evidence shows that providing rehabilitation in a group format results in equivalent clinical outcomes to provision of similar therapy in an individual format in the treatment of back pain and urinary incontinence. There is currently insufficient evidence to draw similar conclusions in other populations or fields of rehabilitation.

Keywords: Rehabilitation; Review, systematic; Therapy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Incontinence / rehabilitation*