Objective: To systematically review the evidence of the effect of exercise compared with passive control on pain in people with multiple sclerosis. Data Source and Study Selection: Five electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials published up to March 2017 that recruited people with multiple sclerosis where exercise was the intervention and pain was an outcome (PROSPERO registration number CRD42017060489). Statistical Analysis: A random-effects meta-analysis was conducted to estimate the standardized mean difference of the effect of exercise on pain between treatment and control groups. We assessed risk of bias, fitted meta-regression models to explore heterogeneity between studies, and assessed small study effects. Data Synthesis: Ten studies met the inclusion criteria (total sample size=389), and all studies were at high risk of bias. We found that exercise interventions were associated with less pain compared with passive control groups (standardized mean difference=−.46; 95% CI, −.92 to.00). There was high between-study heterogeneity (I2=77.0%), which was not explained by the prespecified study characteristics. There was also some evidence of small study effects. Conclusion: This is the first systematic review of the effect of exercise interventions on pain in people with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disorder that affects 2.5 million people. We found some evidence that exercise compared with passive control alleviates pain in this population, but there were limitations in reporting and study quality with high risk of bias of individual studies and heterogeneity between studies.
- Multiple sclerosis