Is Postural Control Affected in People with Patellofemoral Pain and Should it be Part of Rehabilitation? A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis
Background: Growing evidence supports that exercise therapy is effective for patellofemoral pain (PFP) rehabilitation. Nevertheless, the improvements have been reported not to be sustained in the long term, suggesting that the current protocols may not comprehend all required functional factors to provide a consistent recovery. A potential neglected factor in treatment protocols for PFP is postural control. However, it is unclear whether this population presents balance impairments or the influence of postural control on pain and function during rehabilitation programmes. Objective: To investigate whether (Q1) balance is impaired in people with PFP compared to controls, (Q2) conservative interventions are effective to improve balance in people with PFP, and (Q3) balance exercises are effective to improve pain and function in people with PFP. Data sources: Medline, Embase, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science and Cochrane Library, supplemented by hand searching of reference lists, citations and relevant systematic reviews in the field. Methods: A systematic review with meta-analysis was conducted according to the Cochrane recommendations and reported according to the PRISMA statement recommendations. We included cross-sectional studies comparing balance between people with and without PFP; and randomised controlled trials verifying the effect of conservative intervention on balance and the effect of balance intervention on pain and function in people with PFP. The risk of bias was assessed using the Epidemiological Appraisal Instrument for cross-sectional studies and the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale for randomised controlled trials. Results: From 15,436 records, 57 studies (Q1 = 28, Q2 = 23, Q3 = 14) met the eligibility criteria. Meta-analyses indicated that people with PFP have worse anteroposterior (very low grade evidence, standardised mean difference [SMD] = 1.03, 95% CI 0.40–1.66) and mediolateral (moderate grade evidence, SMD = 0.87, 95% CI 0.31–1.42) balance compared to controls. Moderate grade evidence indicated that overall balance is not affected in people with PFP (SMD = 0.38, 95% CI − 0.05–0.82). Low to very low grade evidence indicates that interventions are ineffective for mediolateral (SMD = 0.01, 95% CI − 0.51–0.53) and overall (SMD = 0.49, 95% CI − 0.14–1.11) balance improvements, and low grade evidence indicates that interventions are effective to improve anteroposterior balance (SMD = 0.64, 95% CI 0.04–1.23). Moderate to low grade evidence indicated that balance interventions are effective to reduce pain (SMD = 0.82, 95% CI 0.26–1.38) and improve function (SMD = 0.44, 95% CI 0.09–0.80) when measured using questionnaires; and very low grade evidence indicated no efficacy for function measured via functional tests (SMD = 0.73, 95% CI − 0.16–1.61). Conclusion: People with PFP likely present balance deficits compared to asymptomatic people. There was insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of interventions to improve or modify balance in people with PFP. Also, there was insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of balance exercises to improve pain and function in people with PFP.