A review of behaviour change theories and techniques used in group based self-management programmes for chronic low back pain and arthritis

A. Keogh, M.A. Tully, J. Matthews, D.A. Hurley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    61 Citations (Scopus)


    Medical Research Council (MRC) guidelines recommend applying theory within complex interventions to explain how behaviour change occurs. Guidelines endorse self-management of chronic low back pain (CLBP) and osteoarthritis (OA), but evidence for its effectiveness is weak.

    This literature review aimed to determine the use of behaviour change theory and techniques within randomised controlled trials of group-based self-management programmes for chronic musculoskeletal pain, specifically CLBP and OA.

    A two-phase search strategy of electronic databases was used to identify systematic reviews and studies relevant to this area. Articles were coded for their use of behaviour change theory, and the number of behaviour change techniques (BCTs) was identified using a 93-item taxonomy, Taxonomy (v1).

    25 articles of 22 studies met the inclusion criteria, of which only three reported having based their intervention on theory, and all used Social Cognitive Theory. A total of 33 BCTs were coded across all articles with the most commonly identified techniques being ‘instruction on how to perform the behaviour’, ‘demonstration of the behaviour’, ‘behavioural practice’, ‘credible source’, ‘graded tasks’ and ‘body changes’.

    Results demonstrate that theoretically driven research within group based self-management programmes for chronic musculoskeletal pain is lacking, or is poorly reported. Future research that follows recommended guidelines regarding the use of theory in study design and reporting is warranted.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)727-735
    Number of pages9
    JournalManual Therapy
    Issue number6
    Early online date30 Mar 2015
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Dec 2015


    • Behaviour change theory
    • Self-management
    • Review
    • Behaviour change techniques

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