Pain is a significant health burden globally and its management frequently fails to comply with evidence based, biopsychosocial guidelines. This may be partly attributable to inadequate biopsychosocial focussed pain education for students and clinicians. We aimed to undertake a systematic review, using Cochrane methodology, of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with meta-analysis to quantify the effects of biopsychosocial education strategies in changing student/qualified health care professionals (HCPs) pain related attitudes, knowledge, clinical behaviour or patient outcomes. A systematic search of the literature was undertaken using CINAHL, AMED, PEDro, Cochrane Central Library, MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, Rehabdata, SportDiscus, EMBASE, ASSIA, Dentistry and Oral Science, Psycinfo, Education Research Complete and OpenGrey from 1977 to November 2020. Pooled effect sizes were quantified in random effects meta-analyses for attitudes, knowledge, and clinical behaviours. From a sample of 1812 records, six were narratively analysed and 15 were included in the meta-analyses. These studies represented 3022 patients and 3163 HCPs and students. Education improved attitudes by 11.3% (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.2 to 20.4%, p=0.02), and knowledge by 18.8% (12.4 to 25.3%, p=0.01). The effects of education on clinical behaviour favoured a clinically relevant improvement (OR = 2.4, 0.9 to 5.9, p=0.06). Narrative analysis of the effect of biopsychosocial education for student HCPs/HCPs upon patient outcomes was inconclusive. These findings demonstrate that biopsychosocial focussed pain education strategies can improve student/qualified HCPs’ pain related knowledge and attitudes and increase the likelihood that they will behave more in keeping with evidence-based practice. This should result in improved patient outcomes, however, evidence to support or refute this is lacking.
PROSPERO systematic review record number, CRD42018082251.