Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and Oswestry Disability Index: Which Has Better Measurement Properties for Measuring Physical Functioning in Nonspecific Low Back Pain? Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Phys Ther. 2016 Oct;96(10):1620-1637. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20150420. Epub 2016 Apr 14.


Background: Physical functioning is a core outcome domain to be measured in nonspecific low back pain (NSLBP). A panel of experts recommended the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) to measure this domain. The original 24-item RMDQ and ODI 2.1a are recommended by their developers.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the 24-item RMDQ or the ODI 2.1a has better measurement properties than the other to measure physical functioning in adult patients with NSLBP.

Data sources: Bibliographic databases (MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, SportDiscus, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar), references of existing reviews, and citation tracking were the data sources.

Study selection: Two reviewers selected studies performing a head-to-head comparison of measurement properties (reliability, validity, and responsiveness) of the 2 questionnaires. The COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement INstruments (COSMIN) checklist was used to assess the methodological quality of these studies.

Data extraction: The studies' characteristics and results were extracted by 2 reviewers. A meta-analysis was conducted when there was sufficient clinical and methodological homogeneity among studies.

Data synthesis: Nine articles were included, for a total of 11 studies assessing 5 measurement properties. All studies were classified as having poor or fair methodological quality. The ODI displayed better test-retest reliability and smaller measurement error, whereas the RMDQ presented better construct validity as a measure of physical functioning. There was conflicting evidence for both instruments regarding responsiveness and inconclusive evidence for internal consistency.

Limitations: The results of this review are not generalizable to all available versions of these questionnaires or to patients with specific causes for their LBP.

Conclusions: Based on existing head-to-head comparison studies, there are no strong reasons to prefer 1 of these 2 instruments to measure physical functioning in patients with NSLBP, but studies of higher quality are needed to confirm this conclusion. Foremost, content, structural, and cross-cultural validity of these questionnaires in patients with NSLBP should be assessed and compared.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results