The authors conducted a systematic review of guidelines on the management of low back pain (LBP) to assess their methodological quality and guide care. We synthesized guidelines on the management of LBP published from 2005 to 2014 following best evidence synthesis principles. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane, DARE, National Health Services Economic Evaluation Database, Health Technology Assessment Database, Index to Chiropractic Literature and grey literature. Independent reviewers critically appraised eligible guidelines using AGREE II criteria. We screened 2504 citations; 13 guidelines were eligible for critical appraisal, and 10 had a low risk of bias. According to high-quality guidelines: (1) all patients with acute or chronic LBP should receive education, reassurance and instruction on self-management options; (2) patients with acute LBP should be encouraged to return to activity and may benefit from paracetamol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or spinal manipulation; (3) the management of chronic LBP may include exercise, paracetamol or NSAIDs, manual therapy, acupuncture, and multimodal rehabilitation (combined physical and psychological treatment); and (4) patients with lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy may benefit from spinal manipulation. Ten guidelines were of high methodological quality, but updating and some methodological improvements are needed.
Overall, most guidelines target nonspecific LBP and recommend education, staying active/exercise, manual therapy, and paracetamol or NSAIDs as first-line treatments. The recommendation to use paracetamol for acute LBP is challenged by recent evidence and needs to be revisited.